A pall was cast over the crowd when running mate John McCain, with the Alaska governor by his side, conceded the race to Democrat Barack Obama. The concession was broadcast on large-screen TVs inside the city's sports center.
"I think America made a big mistake," said Phil Straka, a photographer from Wasilla who was selling buttons with the words "McCain-Palin" superimposed over Alaska scenes. "If there was another month before the election, I think they would have won."
Residents of the Anchorage suburb were ready to cheer Palin from Wasilla to the White House.
Their former mayor provided a much-needed boost to McCain's popularity in Alaska, where he finished fourth in the Republican caucuses. Her appeal helped McCain easily win the state and its three electoral votes.
Arin Denison cast her first presidential vote for the McCain-Palin ticket.
"I thought they would win," the 18-year-old Wasilla resident said. "I'm very upset about it."
At the Mug-Shot Saloon, where moose stew made from Palin's own recipe was served, a military couple was divided on Obama's victory.
Jeremy Jonas, 22, who served in Iraq with the Army, said the Democrat's pledge to withdraw most U.S. combat troops from Iraq within 16 months resonated with him.
"His wanting to get out of Iraq is a big thing with me," he said.
But that pledge upset his girlfriend, 23-year-old Danielle Tichenor, who has joined the Army Reserves for an eight-year stint.
"If Obama pulls the troops out, everyone who has been there will have died in vain," she said. "I supported McCain because he was a POW and he knows everything that is going on overseas."
Back at the sports complex, several people expressed hope for whatever future role Palin may play in politics.
"It's just the beginning for Sarah. She'll be on the ticket in 2012," predicted Beryl Kring of Anchorage.
Straka, the photographer with the McCain-Palin buttons, was willing to give them away after McCain's concession speech. He said he'd make more buttons if she runs again.
One booth at the rally featured "Palin 2012" T-shirts for sale.