Vickie Harris couldn't contain her excitement when she saw Sarah Palin climbing into an SUV on Wednesday after the only Utah stop on the former vice presidential candidate's national book tour.
"Good luck," Harris cried out across the parking lot of the Salt Lake Costco store where Palin had autographed copies of her new book, "Going Rogue" for more than 800 people.
Palin, wearing a plaid suit, smiled in Harris' direction and gave the Highland homemaker a quick wave. "Thanks guys," the self-described political maverick said, continuing to wave as her convoy sped off.
"She's very engaging," a beaming Harris said. "Just the way she waves. She's not aloof. She's open."
Harris wasn't the only Costco customer wowed by Palin, seen as a GOP contender for the White House in 2012. Palin was the Republican nominee for vice president in 2008 and resigned last summer as Alaska's governor.
"I think she's incredible," said Emily James of Holladay, who was still waiting to wheel her 2-month-old son Samuel out of the cold and into the store when Palin arrived at noon for the nearly three-hour book signing.
"She's very real," James said of Palin. "She hasn't sold out. She's got a lot to offer. She's not like what's going on right now. … She's a mom. She doesn't act like she's ahead of anyone else."
The first person in line to meet Palin, Shirley McClay, a 62-year-old real estate agent and registered nurse from Logan, arrived at Costco at 5:15 p.m. Tuesday afternoon.
Armed with a sleeping bag, McClay was ready to spend the night outside in sub-freezing temperatures for the chance to see the woman she says she supports because "we need someone today who'll go against the establishment." Costco, though, let McClay and others stay inside the front doors after closing Tuesday night and escorted them into the store about 4 a.m.
Holding her printed ticket with the number "1" in bright red ink, McClay said she was there to tell Palin to "continue the good work and we'll support you … as long as you continue your conservative ideals." The overnight campout to attend an event was her first since her younger days in California, McClay said, when she waited to see the Beach Boys and other bands.
Several military men in uniform were also eagerly awaiting the opportunity to see Palin, including Utah National Guard Army Staff Sgt. Tai P Ho'o, who had to get permission from his commanding officer to leave his post for the book signing.
"She is a realistic reformer," Ho'o said. "She is an actual conservative in a party that's shifting more to the left. Palin is a white sheep in a black flock. She is a real conservative. You don't find that in the GOP these days."
Leslie Heath, a full-time mother from Highland wearing wire-rimmed glasses and long, dark hair styled like Palin's, was thrilled that Palin mentioned they look alike.
"She said she noticed when she came in. I told her my name," Heath said, noting it's the same as Palin's parents and suggesting they may be distantly related.
Palin's parents, Chuck and Sally Heath, accompanied their daughter to Utah, along with Palin's husband, Todd, their youngest child, Trig, and several friends. The group arrived around midnight Tuesday and spent the night at the Hotel Monaco in downtown Salt Lake City.
Sally Health, who was born in Salt Lake City and lived there for three years before her father was transferred by a chemical company to work at the nuclear facility in Hanford, Wash., said she liked being in a conservative state.
"It's kind of preaching to the choir going on here," Sally Heath told the Deseret News. "It's such a good feeling to be with people of like mind and good family values."
Baby Trig, diagnosed with Down syndrome, was carried by Palin friend Juanita Fuller to greet the crowd of shoppers that formed to catch a glimpse of Palin.
"Make a happy face," Fuller said, and the baby complied with a smile. Liz Moszynski of Tooele grinned back.
When Trig was told to make a scary face, Moszynski cowered.
Moszynski said that the brief encounter alone was worth what was a treacherous drive in frigid weather to get to the book signing. "That woman, I just so respect her," Moszynski said of Palin. "She's such a good example for every woman, every family."
Not as excited about Palin's appearance was Paul Larson, a St. George author trying to sell his own family history book from a forlorn table at the other end of the discount warehouse.
"I asked Costco to extend the line down here," he joked. "I thought I'd just change my name to Sarah." Palin did not address the crowd or speak with the media. Her next stop was Reno, where a Wednesday evening book-signing was scheduled