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Shoppers arrived early for Black Friday

Shoppers rushed into Herberger’s in the Westgate Mall after the doors opened at 1 / 5
Theresa Barnett was first in line at Best Buy in Baxter Thursday night waiting f2 / 5
Steph Eschenbacher (left) and Paige Windorski were first in line at Kohl’s Depar3 / 5
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Compared to a year ago, this Black Friday was downright balmy.

In 2010, shoppers waited in single-digit weather in the wee hours of the morning looking for bargains. They were willing to trade time and loss of sleep for discounts and doorbusters.

This Black Friday, the shoppers had an unseasonably warm day, with temperatures dipping into the 30s after dark. Shoppers arrived in force, but the masses clogged parking lots closer to the new, earlier midnight opening for many of the retailers.

Lines of people wrapped around the expansive buildings at Best Buy and Target. Shoppers were in line outside Game Stop in Baxter. And Walmart reported a good turnout, especially for the 10 p.m. sales. Kohl’s and Herberger’s lines extended out into the parking lots. And customers gathered in the entry at J.C. Penney for its 3 a.m. soft opening.

Theresa Barnett, Brainerd, was at the front of the line at Best Buy, again. It was Barnett’s seventh Black Friday. This year the prize was a 42-inch TV and a tablet computer. Instead of a traditional 4 a.m. opening, Best Buy employees were walking along the massive line giving out tickets for sought-after items as the midnight opening neared.

Adjusting to the new time was a bit strange, but Barnett, who with friends and family had been waiting outside Best Buy since 4 p.m. Wednesday, said the midnight opening meant more time to hit other stores on the list.

Barnett’s first year in line was spent without any creature comforts as she huddled against the store’s wall to get out of the cold. Each successive year, she’s upgraded the wait. There was the tent, then a portable fish house and then a box fish house on a trailer. This year she got a loaner of a deluxe fish house with full size bed, heat and bathroom. The deluxe model was parked outside Best Buy across from the front door until nearly 45 minutes before Black Friday officially began.

Barnett’s friend, Elizabeth Hughes, who was on her second Black Friday line, said she felt bad for the employees who were working earlier than ever. For Barnett’s daughter Alex Dominguez, 24, it was her first experience in line full time.

“I visited them years before and I thought they were crazy,” Dominguez said. “I’d come again. We had a lot of fun.”

A Baxter Police Officer brought a pumpkin pie to shoppers in line at Best Buy on Thanksgiving Day.

Law enforcement was highly visible Friday with traffic stops and visits to the retail stores before they opened and as customers began filing inside. Not everyone was pleased with the midnight openings. Several shoppers noted people who wouldn’t get out of bed at 3 a.m. didn’t have a problem staying up until midnight.

“I don’t like it at all,” said Amy Starr as she walked to the back of the line at Best Buy with her daughter Halle, 9. It was their first Black Friday in the Brainerd lakes area. Starr said she usually shops at Walmart. She was drawn out looking for a deal for a camera. “This is kinda crazy. I’ve never had to wait outside before.”

“It’s awesome,” Halle said.

Starr, a regular Black Friday shopper, said the deals are the draw and the experience was fun.

At Kohl’s, the experience was the draw for siblings Paige, 19, and Dylan Windorski, 17. They were first in line at 7:30 p.m. Thursday and set up a tent and watched movies. A family friend, Steph Eschenbacher, arrived about 9 p.m. For Dylan Windorski, this was a first-time event.

“I refused to wake up so early, but now that it’s just stay up, it’s all right,” he said.

“It’s just fun to watch all the people,” Paige Windorski said. But after the wait in the cool, if not really chilly, temperatures she wasn’t planning on hitting more stores. “Breakfast. At home.”

Eschenbacher, who had friends picking up items on her list at other stores, including Menard’s, while she was at Kohl’s, had a few more stops planned such as Mills Fleet Farm. She said the staggered opening times were welcome and offered a chance to go from one store to another in search of deals. Eschenbacher said after Black Friday she’d have 90 percent of her Christmas shopping completed. “It’s just a lot of fun when friends get together.”

At Target, where one employee said the line for the store was the longest yet, people cheered and ran into the store at midnight. Employees created 10-second intervals between groups of shoppers and a trio of girls in the parking lot shouted out the countdown.

Some shoppers looked at the continuous line flowing into the store and changed course heading back to their vehicles. As people were still waiting to enter the store, a regular stream of 40-inch and 46-inch high definition TVs started coming out loaded in carts.

And by the time Black Friday is just a memory, retailers may have an idea whether they’ll be counting this as a merry season as well.

RENEE RICHARDSON may be reached at or 855-5852.