A resounding round of applause rang out early Friday afternoon inside Barnes & Noble at Lake Sumter Landing as a smiling Bret Baier arrived for his book signing event.
The 47-year-old host of “Special Report with Bret Baier” and chief political anchor for the Fox News Channel stopped in The Villages to promote his latest offering, “Three Days in Moscow: Ronald Reagan and the Fall of the Soviet Empire.”
The book tells the story of the last summit between President Reagan and Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev. And it proved to be a popular draw for a chatty crowd of about 200 people who eagerly shared their affection and respect for Baier and his television show.
That was especially true for Mary Frantz, who arrived at 10 a.m. for the event that started just after noon. The Village of Pine Hills resident said she is a huge fan and wasn’t about to miss the chance to meet the conservative commentator in person.
“I admire him,” she said. “I loved his first book (Special Heart: A Journey of Faith, Hope, Courage and Love) on his family. I just thought it was terrific.”
The day turned even more special for Frantz when she realized she would be the first in line to get her book signed.
“I couldn’t believe it, but I’m thrilled to be here,” she said. “I wanted to play bridge this afternoon, but this was more important to me.”
Dennis Nedley said he made the trip from Apopka to see Baier because he has a history with the longtime broadcaster.
“I used to work with him on Hilton Head Island at WJWJ as his production assistant,” Nedley said. “The last time I saw him was 25 years ago.”
Nedley said he wasn’t sure Baier would remember him, adding, “We worked together like crazy.”
Minutes later, Baier’s warm smile, solid handshake and questions about Nedley’s family told the crowd that he did, indeed, remember his former colleague.
Another person who was all smiles before and after speaking with Baier was Pat Anderson, who held the distinction of being the last Villager to get her book signed.
“It was exciting,” said the Village of Pinellas resident. “I can’t believe he actually signed my book. I just wish he was around here all the time.”
Anderson said she’s a big fan of Baier for one simple reason.
“He speaks the truth and that’s what I like – the truth,” she said.
Anderson added that she thoroughly enjoys living in a community where conservatives regularly visit for book signings. She said she’s met several of them, including Greta Van Susteren, Melissa Francis and Newt and Callista Gingrich.
“I’ll be here every time,” she said of future signing events at the popular book store.
But perhaps no smile was bigger than the one of the face of Barnes & Noble manager James Sands, as Villager after Villager posed for photographs with Baier.
“People like Bret come here because of the people who live here,” Sands said. “It’s really because of the community. Villages residents love events like this and they really turn out for them.”
For his part, Baier said it was great to speak with so many people who enjoy his writing and his work on the Fox News Channel.
“They’re great people, really fantastic,” he said. “And it’s always a great turnout at this store,” he added, recalling a similar book signing last year that was coupled with him doing his television show from Florida’s Friendliest Hometown.
Baier, whose aunt, Kathy Scarito, lives in the Village of Sunset Pointe, said he’s pretty sure Friday’s stop won’t be his last visit to to Florida’s Friendliest Hometown.
“I’ll bet I’ll have another book,” he said. “And if I had to bet, I’m sure I’ll be back.”