Palin Wows Convention Watchers Back Home
By James V. Grimaldi
WASILLA, Alaska -- In bars and restaurants along West Parks Highway in Sarah Palin's hometown, crowds of fans cheered, hooted and whistled at the most important political speech ever delivered by the governor of Alaska.
As John McCain's choice as running mate on the GOP ticket addressed the Republican National Convention on Wednesday night, crowds huddled around big-screen TVs as reporters from around the world watched for their reactions.
"Awesome," gushed Diane Jeffus, 52, a construction company co-owner at the end of the address. "I think she's got a good head on her shoulders. She's a true person. That was from her heart."
More than 200 people gathered at the Mug Shot Saloon and the nearby Tailgaters Sports Bar and Grill, both owned by Ted and Marilyn Anderson, who have supported Palin since 1996, when she first became mayor of Wasilla.
The Andersons organized parties at both venues. The Mug Shot featured a savory moose stew ladled up in paper bowls and offered Palin Specials: an 8-inch sausage pizza for $6, or a half-price pizza of any size with the purchase of a 16-inch pizza.
At Tailgaters, the Andersons sold "Go Sarah" T-shirts that included the McCain Palin logo on the back. During Palin's speech began, the crowd was rapt. Too rapt, according to Marilyn Anderson. "They weren't drinking enough, dammit," joked Marilyn Anderson, who called the speech a "grand slam."
Both bars were swarmed by reporters from local affiliates, NBC and German, French and Dutch outlets.
The Mug Shot, the more rugged of the two bars, drew men in ball caps and jeans and casual wear, while the fern-bar atmosphere of Tailgaters drew attendees dressed up in business suits for the event. The Alaska references drew the largest howls of support from the crowds, while some of the lines attacking Democrat Barack Obama garnered less of a reaction.
Many in Wasilla are starstruck by the attention the nomination of the Alaska governor has brought to the town of Wasilla, about 40 miles north of Anchorage, and its approximately 7,700 residents. And many still cannot believe that Palin is on the Republican ticket.
"I'd like to see her as our governor before being vice president," said Ann Ireland, 51, a bookkeeper who said she is "iffy" about her candidacy. "She's barely been governor. She was the mayor of Wasilla -- hello!"
Kitty Grosse, 57, said she was proud. "I was so surprised and pleased," Grosse said. "All the media said this was make it or break it." Tavern owner Marilyn Anderson swooned, "It was like a star is born, as they say."
Posted at 1:45 AM ET on Sep 4, 2008
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