RICHLAND Moments after meeting her hero Sunday afternoon, Brigita Lunden had an important call to make.
"I just touched Sarah Palin," Lunden gushed on the phone as she walked through the Hastings bookstore.
The Kennewick woman, who had to leave a message for her parents, said, "They'd be very proud right now."
Lunden was among thousands of people who lined the streets of Richland and braved cold temperatures for a chance at seeing the 2008 Republican vice presidential candidate.
Some didn't have to wait to get in the bookstore, where Palin spent more than three hours signing copies of her best-seller, Going Rogue: An American Life.
On the drive to the store, Palin made an impromptu stop along Jadwin Avenue and Torbett Street to thank her fans. She walked along the street for at least 20 minutes shaking hands and posing for pictures, while carrying her young son Trig.
"We were stoked. It was worth the drive," said Katie McGuire-Forbes.
She and daughter Raechel McGuire left Troy, Idaho, at 5:45 a.m. Sunday in the hopes of getting Palin's autograph.
They never expected to have a brief exchange with the former Alaska governor. Palin, a 1987 graduate of the University of Idaho, gave her approval to McGuire's Vandals sweatshirt.
"I got to shake Sarah Palin's hand. That was awesome. And her baby is so cute, I just want to kiss his face," McGuire-Forbes said just a minute after meeting the best-selling author. "That will make it that much better if I can't get my book signed."
Palin spent the long Thanksgiving holiday in the Tri-Cities visiting relatives. She resumed her nationwide book tour with the appearance at Hastings, where she was only scheduled to be for two hours but stayed longer.
Fans started camping out at 10 a.m. Saturday to be guaranteed a chance to see Palin. Twenty-four hours later the line extended west out of the parking lot, down Torbett onto Jadwin and wrapped around the block at Symons Street. And people kept arriving nearly two hours into the event.
Palin's table was set up in the back of the store. A wall behind her was covered with copies of Going Rogue and her relatives helped moved the line along by grabbing the books from waiting customers and handing them to Palin.
Chuck Heath stayed with his daughter inside the store, while Sally Heath -- quickly recognized by many fans as Palin's mother -- walked the line outside doing interviews, taking pictures and signing her own name in the book.
"It's just really a complete surprise. We were afraid, what if we showed up here and nobody came," Sally Heath said. "We're so thrilled to death to see the support in Washington state."
Palin's aunt, Katie Johnson of Richland, added: "It's wonderful to see so much support. Last year we heard so much negative ... so it's uplifting."
Ruth Apgar said she and Palin have a lot in common and she wanted to show her support at the book signing. Apgar attended Columbia High School in Richland at the same time as Sally Heath, and she and her husband retired in Wasilla, Alaska, at the time Palin was the town's mayor.
"I'm delighted. I didn't think it would ever happen but knowing Sarah, she'll go to the people," Apgar said of Palin's public appearance in the Tri-Cities. "Just to be here with her ... I didn't know how many people would be here and I'm totally overwhelmed."
Lamb Henry made the trek from Seattle with a group of other Young Republicans. She hyped up the crowd before Palin arrived by running through the parking lot with the sign, "We Love Trig."
"We just feel so much support from all the great things Palin has to say," said Henry, who also has a special needs child. "And obviously there is a lot of enthusiasm because many of us have been here since yesterday."
Lunden, who camped out with friend Alyssa Godinez of Kennewick, said she told Palin that if she "ran in 2012 for president, I would quit my job and campaign for her. Not kidding. And she said, 'That's great.' "
Her excitement also bubbled over before she met Palin -- "I thought I was gonna puke" -- but she pulled it together in time.
"It's just really surreal because we watched her on TV all the time, bawled while watching her at the Republican National Convention because her speech was so moving," added Lunden. "It was so surreal to be within (close proximity) and especially in Richland, Wash."
The Herald wants to see your photos of Palin for a reader online gallery. Submit them to www.tricityherald.com/sendphoto, then watch for them to be posted on the website.