[cnn-photo-caption image= http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2008/images/09/02/art.palin.gi.jpg caption="Sarah Palin will receive an award from the Republican National Coalition for Life."]
ST. PAUL, Minnesota (CNN) - Sarah Palin had been scheduled to receive an award from the Republican National Coalition for Life on Tuesday to celebrate her opposition to abortion rights, but pulled out of the event last night, presumably to work on her vice presidential nomination speech.
Though many of the Republicans sipping wine and beer at the "Life of the Party" event knew that Palin's plans had changed, others were surprised and disappointed by the news.
Robert and Cam Carlson of Fairbanks, Alaska, each sporting red "Palin '06" buttons from her gubernatorial race, understood Palin's last-minute cancellation.
"She's got a higher calling now," Robert said, referring to her much anticipated appearance at the convention on Wednesday night. The couple called to mind how they had shuttled Palin around Fairbanks in their car during the 2006 race, and gushed about her authenticity and down-to-earth demeanor.
Another anti-abortion advocate, Morton Blackwell of Arlington, Virginia, was asked if he was upset Palin couldn't make it.
"Yeah, but clearly she is working on the speech, its extremely important," he said. "I understand it. I'm not happy about it. They should have walked her in and out and let her wave and leave without talking."
Conservative activist Phyllis Schlafley, founder of the Republican National Coalition for Life, told the audience she was "very disappointed" Palin had to cancel. But she nevertheless commended the new running mate for energizing the party's grassroots.
"It is so exciting the way Sarah Palin has invigorated the Republican Party," Schlafley said. "All those people who were holding back and not sure, they're all excited to go to work and elect the McCain-Palin ticket this year."
Conservative radio host Laura Ingraham filled in for Palin.