Less than a week after John McCain announced Sarah Palin as his running mate, Palin's hometown of Wasilla, Alaska was crawling with reporters from all over the world.
(AP Photo/Beth J. Harpaz)
Standing outside of the sports bar Tailgaters, a few residents commented as a reporter walked away, "Where did he say he was from. France?"
But the Palin buzz does not seem to be infecting the town with the same inexhaustible, panicked frenzy shown by the media. When one Wasilla High School student was asked this morning if she knew her school's most famous hockey player, Levi Johnston, the father of Bristol Palin's unborn child, she responded, "Who's that?"
Holly Gittlein, a popular local sculptor whose leather jacket and jewelry is more East Village than Alaskan wilderness has her own explanation. "Its moose hunting season," said Gittlein who just returned from a moose trip herself. She feels the media is making the Palin story into a reality TV show, "It's offensive," she said.
The local Rotary Club, which boasts Sarah Palin as one of its lifetime members, meets each week at the back entrance of Evangelo's Italian restaurant. This week's program kicked off with a welcome from the president David Johnston, a cheerful, strapping Alaskan with a blond ponytail hanging down his back. He hailed Wasilla as, "home of the next Vice President!" and he got a few claps and cheers from the crowd of about 50.
But overall, despite a few nods of pride in their hometown hero, Palin's fellow Rotarians had more important things to discuss. There were the family weddings to talk about, kids going off to school and many people were discussing how happy they were for more chances to go snow-machining and four wheeling. And rather than offer endless plaudits on the Wasilla resident who would later speak that night on national television, the Rotarians chose to praise the speakers at their meeting...a group of developmentally disabled young adults who spoke about how the local program known as Next Step is helping them transition to jobs and independence.
And most of all those gathered were eager to gush about why they love where they live.
"The mountains here, they bring the awe to me," said Sarah Welton Matsu-Borough School Board District President. "I came here in '83 and I knew it was home."
Welton says she won't be voting for Palin, "My car is covered with Obama stickers." She blames the former mayor for politicizing small town elections and says after Palin she would get calls during her school board campaigns from residents asking if she was pro-life. "That never used to happen," she said.
Johnston, the brawny Rotarian president announced mid-way through the program that he would have to leave early and handed over the gavel. Interview with NPR? Quick conversation with CNN? Nope. Just a first grade field trip.