AUBURN, Maine — Move over Thanksgiving. Black Friday was celebrated a day early by folks in the Twin Cities area hungrier for deals than turkey.
By 3:35 p.m. Thursday, 10 people stood — or sat — in line outside the front doors of Best Buy. They came with folding chairs, sleeping bags, scooters and stoves.
Most of them were drawn to the roped-off concrete exterior of the store by the lure of a 40-inch television for $179, normally $419.
“I guess it’s good enough to give up Thanksgiving,” said Joseph Hutchins of Oxford, who said waiting in line for Black Friday sales is a tradition in his family. He was joined this year by his 13-year-old son, Zane Garland. Both were relaxing in camp chairs as the sun was starting to set.
Family members catered food and drinks to them, they said. Zane’s grandmother delivered a bowl of chicken soup. Later, plates of turkey and fixings also arrived. They took turns sleeping in the truck parked nearby the night before.
Besides the 40-inch television, Hutchins said he’s planning to buy his mother a laptop at a greatly reduced price. He claimed his spot at 11 p.m. Wednesday. He decided he would get there early to beat the crowd. Last year, he had arrived at 5 a.m. on Thanksgiving and sat in the snow, but was third in line. Despite moving up his schedule six hours, Hutchins found himself third in line again.
Beating him to the front were Trenton Virgin and Lance Richard of Rumford who made the trip for the big televisions.
Richard, whose mother works on Thanksgiving, had his holiday dinner on Wednesday, he said. He and Virgin set down stakes at 8:30 p.m. Wednesday. Virgin slipped away Thursday morning to join his family for turkey as Richard saved his spot.
The two used a propane stove to warm up slices of turkey as Richard played his iPod through minispeakers set up at the foot of his chair.
To relieve the boredom, they took turns riding a scooter around the parking lot.
This is the second year the two sought Black Friday deals. Last year, they arrived too late and missed out on the televisions, Virgin said.
Nearby, at Walmart, Kevin (who declined to give his last name) of Buckfield was alone waiting outside the store. His wife would join him later, he said, when they’ll map out their plan of attack on the store.
Kevin, who was bundled in a winter coat and knit hat, said he plans to shop for deals on everything, including electronics and toys for Christmas presents for his five children who range in age from 10 months to 15 years.
He said getting in line early also is a tradition in his family. But he wouldn’t miss Thanksgiving dinner for it.
“It gets worse each time the stores up their opening times,” he said.
As stores backed their openings earlier to Thanksgiving Day, line waiters like Kevin have had to cut deeper into their Thanksgiving holiday time to take advantage of the sales.
A banner over the inner entrance to the store read: “Due to Maine blue laws, we will open at 12:01 a.m., Nov. 23.”
Only Maine, Massachusetts and Rhode Island continue to bar larger retailers from doing business on the holiday.
Most of the early shoppers said they scanned Black Friday websites and newspaper inserts to gauge the best deals on the most coveted merchandise. Some plan to hit other stores after exhausting their lists at the store where they’ve camped out.