Sarah Palin to speak at California college's arena opening

The Fresno BeeApril 29, 2011 

The new Golden Eagle Arena at West Hills College in Lemoore wanted to make its first event a headline-grabbing affair. So they invited Sarah Palin to speak.

Palin, the former Alaska governor and 2008 Republican vice presidential candidate, will speak Sunday afternoon to more than 1,400 ticket holders and appear at a nearly sold-out dinner afterward at the arena.

The event is sponsored by the West Hills College Foundation, which said it is paying $115,000 to have her appear.

The $24 million arena at the 10-year-old campus has been a center of activity this week as workers finish painting walls and set up tables and chairs.

Interest in Palin's speech has been brisk -- and some students said they hope her appearance will raise the college's profile.

"It's pretty cool -- it's going to be big," said student Isavel Vega, 20. "I think it's going to attract more people to the college."

Another student, Lawrence Brieno, 20, said many on campus are excited.

"They're excited to see her from a political point of view," he said. Palin's "coming to a little small town of Lemoore. It's someone big and known."

People are coming Sunday from all over, including an avid Palin follower from Indiana, according to the college.

Palin, though, is often a lightning rod of controversy, and her appearance at West Hills is expected to draw protesters.

Student Dolores Wesson, 42, said she is organizing a peaceful protest at 4 p.m. Sunday, one hour before Palin's speech.

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