Palin resignation turns national eye on Fairbanks

Governor's annual picnic Sunday expected to draw about 5,000 people

Posted: Thursday, July 23, 2009

FAIRBANKS - Fairbanks is expecting to be in the national spotlight Sunday when Gov. Sarah Palin formally steps down and Lt. Gov. Sean Parnell swears in to take her place.

The transition will take place during the governor's annual picnic, which is expected to draw about 5,000 people, according to the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner.

The former Republican vice presidential nominee announced her resignation plan July 3 without saying exactly what she would do next. She said she wants to continue to be involved in politics, but didn't mention running for president in 2012.

On Twitter postings Tuesday, Palin said she'll use her farewell speech to share gratefulness for the honor of serving and speak to Alaska's destiny that includes contributions of energy and security to the United States.

Palin spokeswoman Sharon Leighow said Palin also is expected to attend picnics in Mat-Su on Friday evening and in Anchorage on Saturday afternoon.

Leighow said the governor's office has been inundated with inquiries from national media outlets about the Fairbanks event.

"It's definitely exciting to have the inauguration here at the park," Pioneer Park manager Jason Avery said. "We've got additional security, and our crews are just making last-minute preparations."

Melissa Stepovich, who works in Palin's Fairbanks office, said she's getting a lot of interest from legislators and other state dignitaries in attending the transition.

"How fortunate is Fairbanks to have this happen here," she said. "It kind of tells you how the governor and the lieutenant governor feel about Fairbanks. They've chosen it, and especially at 50 years of statehood."

Parnell spokeswoman Michelle Toohey said he plans to stay in Fairbanks on Monday, his first official day as governor and meet with local media and community leaders. His first cabinet meeting is scheduled for Wednesday.

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