Love her or hate her, there's no denying that Republican vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin has emerged as an influential political figure, and Saturday Night Live's Tina Fey won't be the only one impersonating her this Halloween.
Starkville resident Beth Downey, 35, is an independent voter, so her decision to don a Palin costume isn't really a political statement.
"I've always been into timely costumes," said the Mississippi State University librarian. "It was a simple matter of messing around in my bathroom mirror and putting my hair up and glasses on. I kind of looked like her."
Downey will be wearing a black skirt suit, red peep toe heels and the essential pair of glasses this Halloween.
"I even have little polar bear earrings with stars that are very Alaska-looking," she said. "I could have just gone with whatever Tina Fey wears on Saturday Night Live, but I wanted something that kind of screams 'Alaska.' I may even borrow my sister's old flute. Thank God (Palin) came along this year, otherwise I don't know what I would be for Halloween."
The National Retail Federation reports that the election is playing a role in Halloween. An estimated 51.8 million adults plan to dress up, and while witches, pirates and cats remain favorites, some 574,000 adults are expected to dress as political figures.
Justin Ponds, head of the College Republicans at Mississippi College, said the group held a contest Oct. 4 to find the mom who best resembled Palin. Mellanie Dixon, from MC's graduating class of 1986, was declared the winner.
"She had the hair, glasses and the same kind of glee and bluntness about her," Ponds said. "We felt like she not only looked like Palin, but kind of embodied her."
Ponds believes Palin will be a popular costume choice among Mississippians.
"I remember reading that Saturday Night Live has had their highest ratings in 14 years because of Palin, so she obviously is very popular among people," he said. "Some make fun of her, and some really want to be like her."
Ridgeland resident Allison Usey, 37, and her daughter, Nancy, 10, got into the Halloween spirit by creating a Palin pumpkin to honor their favorite political figure.
"We are fans of popular culture, and Sarah Palin just hit the mark for us," she said. "As soon as we figured out that's what we wanted to do, we just went for it. I had all the props in my closet."
The three-foot tall Palin pumpkin now sits outside Jackson Academy wearing a conservative red shift dress, a plaid scarf, pearls and glasses.
"Definitely the most challenging part about fashioning a Sarah Palin likeness is the hair," she said. "It is in two parts. There's a wig and hairpiece on top of the base wig, and we had to shove a mixing bowl underneath it to get that perfect bouffant, pageant girl, reformer hairstyle."
Usey said the Palin pumpkin is not mockery.
"We were paying homage to Sarah Palin," she said. "She is our candidate. It was done out of respect. We believe in her."
And why has Palin become so inspirational?
"I think in the past, a lot of the political candidates looked a lot alike, wore the same suits and just said different things," she said. "Sarah Palin, to me, is so completely unique. She's in a class all her own, and she owns it. She's a woman, but she can field dress a moose in 10 minutes."
Robin Harrigill, co-owner of Party City in Ridgeland, said the store just began selling the Palin mask, but "the Obama mask is selling more than others."
The store also carries John McCain, Hillary and Bill Clinton and George Bush masks that cost $14.99 to $19.99.
"We have everybody except Biden," Harrigill said.
Costumes inspired by High School Musical and Star Wars are also popular.
Carolyn Shelby, owner of Tupelo's Costume World, said many have elected to buy the Obama mask.
"I think I have only two left, and I'm going to order more,"she said. "I feel like they will sell even after Halloween as collectors items."
"For the last two weeks, we have been bombarded by people," she said. "There's no telling how many parties they are having this year. I do think it's big because people are depressed, and when they all get together, they can get their mind off of things."
Researchers believe Halloween will be bigger this year than last because Americans are looking to escape everyday realities like the economy. Total Halloween spending is expected to reach $5.77 billion, up from $5.07 billion last year.
The average person will spend $66.54 on the holiday and an average of $24.17 on Halloween costumes, the National Retail Federation reports. The holiday remains most popular with those ages 18-24, who are expected to spend an average of $86.59, the most of any group.
Thanks to the popularity of The Dark Knight, many will wear Batman-themed costumes, while others may choose to dress like characters from The Kingdom of the Crystal Skull.
Mike and Lisa Day, owners of Dance Connection Dance Center in Pearl, will host a Halloween Dance Party Oct. 31.
"I'm going to be Zorro, and my son, Ryan, is going to be Indiana Jones," Day said.
Jackson residents Page Sessums, 37, and her husband, Craig, 38, will throw their third annual costume party tonight. She'll be a candy corn witch, and he'll dress as the Joker from The Dark Night.
"We've invited 240 people," she said. "It's at my husband's partner's 100-year-old house. People are being very secretive about their costumes."
Jeanhee Muse, an event planner and owner of Wedding by Muse, is preparing to host a party at Castlewoods Country Club in Brandon Halloween night. It will feature a costume contest with a Batman/Joker theme.
"I'm going to be a cat in a one-piece, leopard-print bodysuit," Muse said. "Halloween is a big deal to a lot of people. Months ahead, they start thinking about what they can be. It's that one night when you can be someone else."