It was in my hometown, but that didn't help. My press affiliations didn't help either. Checking in on it 6 hours ahead of time didn't even matter.
I am talking about a book signing by Rachael Ray at Barnes and Noble after her book Rachael Ray 365:No Repeats was released. This was a book signing like no other that I have seen.
When I heard Ray was doing a book promotional tour, I tried to get an interview with her. Unfortunately for me, this was right about when she was reaching the peak of her popularity. My various press connections got me nowhere.
Still, I figured since it was near my home I would have quick access. Since it was winter, I thought the crowd might not be too bad.
On the day of the signing, I shot over to B&N about 6 hours early, figuring I would talk to the staffers and see what the situation was. As I approached, I saw a jammed parking lot. This wasn't a good sign.
I walked into the B&N and saw a line that wrapped around the upper level balcony, descended the escalator, wrapped around the perimeter of the lower level and finally ended at the would-be signing table.
One staffer at B&N said the line had actually started the night before. By 6 a.m. (about 10 hours pre-signing), there was already a line of about 300 people. For whatever reason, there was not a wristband distribution or any similar system. People just waited and hoped they would make it to Ray before her time ended.
The line was estimated at around 700 by the time Ray arrived. Probably a couple hundred more had left realizing they would not have a shot at meeting Ray. Even at that, at least another 200 or so of the 700 in line also did not get to meet Ray.
I have attended a lot of book signings, but I have never seen a crowd like Ray had. If time was not an issue, she would have had over 1,000 people and that is a conservative estimate.
You couldn't even get near the signing area to catch a glimpse of Ray. Of course, I found a weak spot in the system and managed to get a quick picture of Ray as she was getting settled. It wasn't great, but at least I didn't spend 8 hours trying to get it!