Tyler sixth-grader Colton Phillips had the opportunity to go camping with his folks over Thanksgiving break, not in the woods but on the sidewalk in front of Best Buy.
The couple set up camp Wednesday in front of the store, 5514 S. Broadway Ave., but ultimately it was Mrs. Phillips and her son who stayed overnight; her husband brought the holiday meal.
“We had lots of blankets,” she said with a grin. “It was nice to have my son with me. We got to have a little bonding time.”
The Phillips clan was not alone in its quest to balance family with Black Friday shopping.
Best Buy opened at 12:01 a.m. Friday, but some other retailers broke tradition and opened several hours earlier, forcing die-hard Black Friday shoppers to show up or miss out.
Cinthia Palacios, a Jacksonville mother of two, scurried to Toys R Us several hours before its 8 p.m. Thanksgiving opening to snag a few goodies.
She and shopping sidekick, April Pond, of New Summerfield, were near the front of a line that stretched across the front of the toy store and parallel to Broadway, extending west to First Christian Church.
“Last year, we came here,” Ms. Palacios said. “This year we said, 'OK, let's come again.' I think it is better this year because there's less of a rush.”
An expectant Sara Purdy, of Flint, said she can't resist the allure of a good Black Friday deal.
“You get sucked in,” she said. “It consumes you.”
“It's not a big deal,” he said, checking what appeared to be football scores on his phone. “She just asked really nicely.”
Jodi Bradshaw, of Whitehouse, was found standing near the couple, sporting a Black Friday 2012 T-shirt.
“It's no longer Black Friday; it is gray Thursday,” she said. “This was my 15th year. It's easier, but it wasn't exciting.”
Lisa Murray, of Tyler, and family spent the holiday together and then hit the stores to buy for little ones.
“It's so fun,” she said. “My whole family does it; we're all at different stores. Some at Target, some at Walmart …”
Kelley Bennett and husband, Robert, also of Tyler, were pitching in to help Ms. Murray and other relatives, but they didn't seem thrilled about doing it on Thanksgiving.
“I do support the strike,” Mrs. Bennett said, referencing reports of threatened walk-outs. “These people should be having Thanksgiving with their families. I personally don't care for it.”
At Target, 7003 S. Broadway Ave., rows of fencing panels corralled hundreds of shoppers into tidy lines.
After waiting more than two hours, Shay Paul and Teresa Rosser, of Tyler, were among the first in and first out, each wheeling buggies packed with purchases.
“I've been shopping on Black Friday and this was better — the best one I've had,” Ms. Rosser said. “I don't approve of it (Thanksgiving opening), but if you want the deal, you've got to participate.”
Michael Lancaster and Ashley Peterson, both of Mount Pleasant, waited until the lines shortened a bit before attempting to enter the store.
Neither shopper seemed to mind the hourlong drive to get there.
“I came here just for Black Friday,” he said. “I'm just here to get some cheap stuff.”
As the clock ticked closer to midnight, Broadway Square Mall, set to open at 12:01 a.m. Friday, seemed to be bursting at the seams, especially outside Victoria's Secret where a crowd of women gathered for deals on intimate wear.
While some shoppers were ramping up, others seemed to be winding down after standing in line at other stores.
Amy, a Tyler woman who declined to reveal her last name, said she hit Walmart's Thursday night opening before wrapping things up at the mall.
She was among those found leaning against the wall outside Old Navy, one of dozens of shoppers waiting on the doors to open.
Back at Best Buy, Tyler resident Casey Parker was enjoying his newfound celebrity status of being the first in line.
He arrived at the store at 11 a.m. Tuesday to buy a 50-inch television and a laptop, arriving with a tent, chairs, a portable heater and an air mattress.
“It's all good,” he said. “Last night, there was a mobile theater and a bunch of people skateboarding.”
Keith Gilbert and his son, Ty, 17, a student at Robert E. Lee High School, were right behind Parker in line.
The three men recognized each other from Black Friday 2011 and used the opportunity to catch up on the year's events, pledging to make it an annual event.
“It's sort of like deer hunting without the deer,” Ty said.