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Maybe Hillary Rodham Clinton's book signing in St. Paul Sunday afternoon was not a campaign event, but it had all the makings of one: boisterous crowds, prominent Democrats, buttons with her face on them, and even half a dozen protesters.
The line of 1,100 fans wound around the block of Snelling Avenue, inching slowly toward a short exchange, maybe a handshake with Clinton and a prepaid hardback copy of "Hard Choices," her memoir detailing the challenges during her tenure as secretary of state.
Many of the fans waiting to meet the former first lady and secretary of state couldn't contain their excitement about meeting the woman who is considered the front-runner for the 2016 Democratic presidential nomination but hasn't said whether she intends to run.
Mary Fukar, of St. Paul, was one of the first to arrive in line at 7:30 a.m. She quickly made friends with other early birds, who were there to grab a spot in the shade.
"I remember waiting in a long line when she came to Mall of America," Fukar said. "I wanted to make sure I was first in line this time."
Clinton arrived at the Common Good Books store with Gov. Mark Dayton, U.S. Sen. Al Franken and St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman.
Political polls consistently show Clinton in the lead among likely candidates for the Democratic nomination. However, she bypassed that subject Sunday, saying to the crowd of 100 people waiting to have their copy of "Hard Choices" signed, "Let's sign some books."
Dayton held up his copy. "I promise to read it after the election," he said as the crowd joined him laughing.
The growing line outside featured many women, men and children — the youngest 6 months old. The store's owner, humorist Garrison Keillor, showed up and visited with people as they waited. Austen Lucille, 12, had a big smile on her face and a little pep in her step. A student from the Laura Jeffrey Academy for girls, she had been invited to meet Clinton before the book signing. She dressed up for the occasion, wearing a brand new orchid-colored dress with black detailing.
"I cannot believe I get to meet Hillary Clinton," she said.
Austen said she admires Clinton, but could never be like her because it "looks too hard."
Margo Ensz and Lindsey Graff, both from Minneapolis, got Clinton's attention with their homemade T-shirts with a printed picture of Clinton's face stitched right in the middle.
"We literally drew blood by poking ourselves with the needle by accident," Graff said.
Ensz and Graff waited in line for hours in the 85-degree heat just to tell their idol how much she means to them. By the time they got their $35 book signed it was well worth the blood, sweat and tears, they said.
"She stopped us and asked about our shirts," Ensz said trying to catch her breath. "We got a couple more seconds with her because of our shirts!"
Others who were not as lucky with time were still excited to meet her. Clinton had pledged to sign all 1,100 copies, giving her only 7 seconds with each guest.
Joy and Rod Koehn, of Bloomington, didn't get more than several seconds after waiting in line for three hours.
"Persistence is what I like about her, but she is [also] hardworking just like Rosie [the Riveter]," said Joy Koehn, pointing to her Rosie the Riveter button with Clinton's face on it and the slogan, "We can do it."
Clinton's appearance also drew seven protesters, who stood across the street with signs reading, "Bring the war home."
But for Melissa Stanton, who said she has followed Clinton since she was the first lady, it was "pee-your-pants exciting" being in the same room with a potential U.S. presidential candidate.