As the sun set on a group of people packed into a West Duluth parking lot, everyone's complete attention was focused on a set of speakers set off to one side.
They were among the approximately 250 people gathered at Zenith Bookstore Thursday night to hear from a superstar of the literary world: David Sedaris. Some said they attended for his comedic storytelling, others were there to hear inflections in his voice as he passionately told a story, and several people attended to share the experience with family and friends.
The witty writer and storyteller is known for his numerous best-selling books - including "Holidays on Ice" and "Me Talk Pretty One Day" - public-radio contributions and comedy. Sedaris was touring his most recent book, "Calypso," during his stop, part of his tour of smaller bookstores.
Darla Halse, along with her daughter, was one of the first people to arrive at the independent bookstore, with a lawn chair in tow. "I just love him," she said.
"I just want to meet him. To have somebody this big to come to such a little, old place, it's amazing," Halse said.
Arriving early paid off for Halse. She was the first one tapped to meet Sedaris when a small table was set up outside and he unexpectedly started signing books before the event began. "He was just ... so warm," she said after she had met him.
The line to meet Sedaris grew and stayed busy until the planned event started at 7 p.m.
Sedaris spoke to a crowd of around 100 people inside - the lucky ones who bought tickets within minutes of them going on sale - and to around 150 people who stood, lounged in lawn chairs and sat on the concrete outside listening through large speakers.
He shared stories from interactions with friends, previous book tours and everyday encounters - all of which made the highly attentive crowd laugh throughout the event.
Many in the audience were enamored that Sedaris chose a small Duluth bookstore for one of his stops.
Kathy Hannan, who attended with two friends, said the event was a "gift to Duluth."
"It's a hard world to live in right now, and the tone can change the piece of writing from a great message to a more ... mean-spirited piece. And he doesn't go there, and I think that's really important quality right now," Hannan said.
For Sherrie Steele, the event was extra special. She's been a fan of Sedaris for around 20 years and snagged an inside seat by winning a ticket from Zenith - resulting in what she called the "best birthday present ever."
Steele was most excited to hear him live. "I could have him read to me every night," she said.
Jon Kruse stumbled on the event while vacationing in Duluth with his family. "I just thought it was a cool thing to do. Introduce the kids to him a little bit," he said.
Friends Sue Keola and Lisa Hoch, who occupied the front row seats for the event, said they've been fans of Sedaris "forever," but this was the first time seeing him live.
"His humor is so personal. I mean it's personal to him, but you can feel it as well (and) you can really relate," Hoch said.