MISHAWAKA - Moms and dads, with children piled in the back seats of their cars and minivans slowed up as they drove past shoppers wrapped in blankets, or warming their hands over wood-burning firepits, or playing football Thursday afternoon in the parking lot of the Mishawaka Best Buy.
Whether these families decided to check out the unusual activity on their way home from dinner at relatives or made a special trip to just to see the die-hard shoppers, this is a scene that you only see one day of the year.
That's Black Friday.
"We've been called idiots. Someone shouted at us to get a job if we can't afford regular price. Others have driven by and taken pictures or video of us. One car came by around 4 in the morning, knowing we were sleeping, playing loud, loud music," said Michelle Anderson, of Bristol, who slept in a tent.
Anderson enjoyed the camaraderie with fellow shoppers, but she was upset about the teasing the Best Buy's early birds met from people who seemingly weren't planning to line up.
"I'm here because I can get a deal," Anderson said."It might make me look crazy, but you do what's within your means."
Retailers didn't know exactly what to expect this year with so many openings scheduled at midnight or earlier on Thanksgiving Day.
Some saw the first shoppers form lines on Grape Road as early as Wednesday. But consumers only trickled into lines during the daylight Thursday, most seemingly enjoying the holiday at home before taking advantage of the earlier-than-ever-before openings.
The line outside Toys R Us only contained Doug Otis of Mishawaka - his second consecutive year in the first spot - and several others at 4 p.m. Thursday, for instance. But when the doors opened at 9 p.m., the line contained more than 500 people, wrapping around the parking lot.
Shoppers near the front called a store manager to help them a few minutes before Toys R Us opened. Two people had quietly tried to join in the first dozen people.
"No one was here holding your place," one shopper politely but firmly told them. Another added, "You can't just jump the line. The pair of apparent line-jumpers walked toward the back of the line without incident."
"It's upsetting," said Kayla Chamberlin of Mishawaka, about line-jumpers, especially when the lines are so long. Her friends, also veteran Black Friday shoppers, agreed.
To combat extreme rushes and crowding, Toys R Us, SuperTarget and others only allowed 50 or fewer shoppers into the store at a time. First-time Black Friday shopper Ashley Bryant of Elkhart appreciated the organization she saw.
"It's not at all as bad as I thought it would be," Bryant said. "I was expecting something out of the classic movies where everyone is grabbing for things and not caring about the people around them."
Busy didn't begin to describe the scene up and down Grape Road late Thursday, an hour or so before Best Buy, Kohl's, SuperTarget, Macy's and many others opened their doors. More than 30 stores at University Park Mall in Mishawaka also opened for the first time at midnight.
The line at Best Buy, however, started at 11 a.m. Wednesday when John Pontjeris and twin brother James, 18, arrived for televisions and gaming systems. Electronics will continue to be a hot item today, as well, and all weekend long.
About 152 million consumers are expected to shop the nation's stores this weekend, according to the National Retail Federation.
More than 500-plus people stood behind the Pontjeris twins shortly before the Best Buy opening, many shoppers seemingly staying up late to shop as opposed to previous years when setting the alarm for the middle of the night was necessary.
At SuperTarget, Megan Canzoneri, of South Bend, pulled up at 1:15 p.m. Thursday and sat alone in the parking lot for a few hours. She couldn't believe her luck of securing the first spot in a line that managers estimated would reach 1,500 to 2000 by the midnight opening Thursday.
"If you have the money and the means to venture out, even if it's cold or a long wait on Thanksgiving, I say go for it," Canzoneri said, a Dr. Pepper, clementines, gummy bears and ads by her side. But Christmas Day would be another story.
Staff writer Heidi Prescott: