TRIADELPHIA - The shopping crowds calmed down by mid-morning Friday at The Highlands, as long lines of serious shoppers hunting for a deal on Thanksgiving night gave way to early morning crowds.
About 2,000 people poured into Cabela's at the store's opening at 5 a.m. Friday, after waiting in a line that reached almost to the Best Buy parking lot, marketing manager Bud Forte said. Employees served coffee and hot chocolate to those waiting in the brisk weather for the first 600 "mystery envelopes" containing prizes ranging from gift cards to an $1,100 rifle. Forte noted a young woman from Cameron claimed a spot in line at 11:45 a.m. Thursday until the store's opening and was awarded a Cabela's flag for being the first in line.
Sandy Lingenfelter said she drove from her home in Pennsylvania with her husband Friday morning to look for a spotting scope at Cabela's. Even though she was fighting fatigue, the discounts made it worth the trip.
"My husband just loves it here," Lingenfelter said Friday. "He's like a little kid, he gets so excited. We've been up since 5 a.m. this morning to check out the deals."
Debra and Kylee Carpenter of Martins Ferry said they got to The Highlands at 7:30 a.m. Friday, hitting Target first for sales on DVDs and discounts on a single-serve coffee maker.
"It's been easy shopping this year," Debra Carpenter said. "We typically go Black Friday shopping every year, especially once all my girls were old enough. We have a lot of birthdays coming up, so we're shopping for that too."
In contrast to the stereotypical pushing and shoving of Black Friday mania, store managers noted how calm and orderly the crowds were this year. Pat Wesolowski, manager of J.C. Penney, said opening on Thanksgiving night allowed the crowds to "level out," making it much easier for people to shop
"People have mostly been coming here for small appliances and our brand new Disney shop that has been really popular," Wesolowski said. "The traffic has been great and the weather has been in our favor, so we're really pleased."
Steubenville residents Chris and Dee Peterson said they came to Best Buy looking for a new flat-screen television, though they had not planned to go Black Friday bargain hunting.
"We happened to be around since we dropped our dog off at the vet, but in the meantime, we wanted to see what the sales were," Chris Peterson said. "We haven't seen too many crowds, but I heard last night was crazy."
"There are just so many options," Dee Peterson said. "We just had to sit down for a minute."
Wal-Mart experienced a large crowd on hand for the 6 a.m. Friday specials. Wal-Mart was open on Thanksgiving Day, but continues to offer special bargains throughout the weekend. The Wal-Mart in Moundsville saw a rush of shoppers on Thanksgiving, taking advantage of special buys.
Meanwhile at the Ohio Valley Mall and Ohio Valley Plaza in St. Clairsville Friday, shoppers turned out in droves for Black Friday shopping deals. Some stores opened Thanksgiving night and were doing a brisk business as gift-seekers were making the rush to get all the early-bird bargains.
The parking lots at both shopping centers were crowded with vehicles at 3 a.m. Friday, and people started to form lines in front of the stores at that time. The Kmart lot was one of those jammed with vehicles.
Cindy McGee and some friends from Barnesville decided to have breakfast at Bob Evans before hitting the stores. They arrived at Kmart with gift lists in hand and went shopping. The group included Astin Skinner, Peggy Skinner and Kyleigh McGee. They said they hoped to get most of their shopping done today.
Amanda Timko Murray headed for Toys 'R Us to take advantage of their bargains. "They have a lot of them, she said.
Being at the Ohio Valley Mall on Black Friday has become a tradition for Charla Macy of Bethesda. "Years ago, I came just to watch the crowds. Now that I have grandchildren, I joined the shoppers in bargain hunting. It is always a lot of fun," she said.
Boscov's, the mall's newest store, was filled with bargain hunters. Kate Brown of Bridgeport and her daughter, Lori Sacco of St. Clairsville, were checking the items on their lists as they began their shopping spree.
Elder-Beerman and Sears at the mall also were buzzing with shoppers. People were leaving the stores with shopping bags loaded with items. HH Gregg Appliance and Electronics also drew plenty of bargain hunters.
George Diab, mall manager, was smiling as he watched the crowd.
"Every store here is jammed with people and they are spending money," he said Friday. "There is no doubt we are headed for a banner Christmas shopping season."
Ed Polli contributed to this story.