SEEKONK — Against a backdrop of stacked paper towels and water bottle packs in an aisle at a Sam’s Club, former US secretary of state Hillary Clinton greeted nearly 1,000 people Saturday during a book signing at the retail warehouse for her memoir, “Hard Choices.”
Some even spent the night in the parking lot so they could be first to enter the store when it opened at 7 a.m. and line up for a signed copy and a few seconds with Clinton, widely discussed as a front-runner for the next presidential election.
“I wanted her to see that she met probably the first woman president,” said Sherry Tomasso, referring to her 9-year-old granddaughter, Kyllei Shelton, who came with her to the signing. The Rehoboth residents arrived at the store at midnight with folding chairs, blankets, and snacks to brave the chilly night.
Clinton came out to raucous applause and cheering. Outside, some in the rear of the line also voiced their enthusiasm when Clinton aides periodically came out to thank them for coming and to reassure them that they would get to see the former first lady and US senator.
“Run, Hilary, run,” one woman chanted.
“I have so much respect for her,” said Diane Bergeron of Malden, who came to the store at 5 a.m. and left with a gleeful smile and a signed book clutched to her chest.
“She has my vote, and I’m going to campaign for her, which I never do, but I will for her,” said Lynn Vandenburgh of Plymouth.
Vandenburgh said she was exhausted and could barely remember the short chat she had with Clinton, but that having Clinton’s hand on top of hers for a few seconds made it “all worth it.”
Until just before 4 p.m., when the event was scheduled to end, the line stretched from the back of the store to the parking lot. Store employees handed out water and snacks throughout the day.
A bus belonging to the Ready for Hillary Super PAC was stationed outside the store, and about 600 people signed up to volunteer or receive information, according to the group’s communications director, Seth Bringman.
Some at the store said they were surprised at the choice of venue.
“I thought they had evacuated Sam’s Club when I saw the line in the parking lot,” said Helena Gernold of East Providence, R.I.,who was shopping there. “This is like a warehouse. You would expect like a Barnes & Noble.”
Abigale Sanft, an 18-year-old from Taunton, said the location was strange but that she did not think it affected attendance.
“What really matters is that she came to the area,” Sanft said. “People are here anyway.”
Security was tight, with dozens of State Police, Seekonk police, and Secret Service agents restricting access to Clinton and checking the perimeter.
Several aisles were cordoned off so people could not cut in without being screened. The store’s café was closed and the space was used to give out wristbands, for which people either had to buy a book or bring their own for signing.
Dianna Gee, a spokeswoman for Sam’s Club, said the store has hosted book signings for a variety of authors over the past few years. A few weeks ago, Clinton held one in Arkansas at a Walmart, the company that owns Sam’s Club.
Clinton has been promoting her book across the country since June. Last week she stopped in Cambridge.
In its first week, “Hard Choices” sold 86,000 copies, though book sales had plunged to 10,000 by last week, according to Nielsen BookScan. A new book attacking Clinton, Ed Klein’s “Blood Feud: The Clintons vs. the Obamas,” has outsold it for three weeks in a row.Oliver Ortega can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @ByOliverOrtega.