Despite cold and icy conditions, shoppers were out in force for Black Friday sales in Grand Island.

Thanksgiving weekend is one of the busiest shopping periods of the year. This year was especially true as Thanksgiving was later this year, cutting the amount of Christmas shopping days by nearly a week. Stores are competing to get shoppers with incredible deals in limited quantities, which draws the crowds, regardless of the hour and what it’s doing outside weather-wise.

Menards opened their doors at 6 a.m. Despite the temperature hovering around freezing and icy road conditions, at least 300 people were waiting in line to get in, grab a cart and start shopping.

In Thursday’s Grand Island Independent, Menards had three advertising inserts that listed hundreds of items that had been drastically marked down and available in limited quantities. Store manager Marty Ingebretsen said Black Friday and the Thanksgiving weekend is one of the store’s busiest times of the year. They started getting ready for Black Friday nearly three months ago.

And for the people waiting in line, their shopping strategies varied. Some have come to Grand Island from great distances to shop the community over the holiday weekend. Some have detailed shopping lists with times and locations that started Thursday afternoon. Others had no idea what they were going to buy, but wanted to be part of the retail celebration.

Standing in the Menards line Friday morning was Stacia Lund of Grand Island. What brought her down to Menards at 6 a.m. were work lights.

“I just need one thing for our body shop,” Lund said, who works for USA Auto Body in Grand Island.

She said going shopping on Black Friday, regardless that she was only going to get one thing, is fun.

“After I’m finished here, I’m going to work,” she said.

Last year, Black Friday fell on Nov. 23. It was a warm day as the thermometer reached a high of 60 as Thanksgiving week was a warm one for the end of November. In contrast, on Friday, temperatures were in the lower 30s with more than 8 inches of snow on the ground.

Paege Milligan of Oxford was also waiting in line at Menards. She drove on icy roads to get to Grand Island on Thursday to shop. Many retailers started their Black Friday retail experience on Thursday evening.

When asked if she had a particular item or items she wanted to purchase, Milligan said, “I don’t know yet.”

Some of the people in line came in pairs or small groups for a divide and conquer approach of shopping. Each individual was assigned the task to get specific sale items for the group.

“You can’t Black Friday shop without a strategy,” said Tina Graff of Alda.

Graff had one specific item in mind that was marked down for the sales event, a hot air fryer.

“I am tired of using hot oil, and it is healthier,” she said.

Graff said the hot air fryer was the main item on her list, along with “anything else I see.”

At 6 a.m. Menards’ doors opened and the crowd began their rush into the store. For some people, they got frustrated right off the bat as they had been standing in line for more than an hour in the cold only to see latecomers push themselves right through the line to get into the store.

“We have been standing in line for an hour, and she has been in her warm car and cuts in front of all of us,” said Lindsey Blackwell of Grand Island.

When asked why she has been standing in line for more than an hour, Blackwell smiled and said, “Just for the thrill of it.”

And for many people, the competitiveness of Black Friday shopping can be a mixture of emotions of pure joy to venomous frustration.

Store manager Ingebretsen has seen his share of Black Fridays at the Grand Island Menards. He has managed the store now for going on 15 years.

“It is a great day, and we look forward to it every year,” he said.

Ingebretsen said people began standing in line at 4 a.m.

“It is our biggest day of the year,” he said. “It is one of the things where we get to show that retail is still alive, and it is not all about the internet.”

Before the store opened, Ingebretsen visited with people standing in line.

“I asked them what item or items they were here for, and they said, ‘Anything. I’m just here for the show,’” Ingebretsen said. “You can’t get this on the internet.”

And shoppers can spend hours walking through the store as the Grand Island Menards has more than 60,000 items on its shelves, Ingebretsen said.

It was a different picture at Gordmans. Like Menards, they were open at 6 a.m. but didn’t have the rush of shoppers. One of the reasons for that was they started their Black Friday sale on Thursday afternoon at 3 p.m. through 1 a.m. before closing five hours to get ready for the Black Friday rush.

According to Gordmans store manager Tami Kennedy, they had a big crowd of shoppers on Thursday afternoon and evening, and many of their limited Black Friday sale items were already gone by Black Friday.

Over the nearly 70 years since Black Friday’s origin, the phenomena has evolved and grown to encompass now almost the whole month of November as the competition between brick and mortar vs. the internet has grown intensely over the last several decades. Along with a lot of sales items, Gordmans also attracted shoppers with free giveaways, drawings and the pledge of some of the dollars spent by shoppers going to St. Jude’s Children Hospital.

“We will still have a big shopping day today,” Kennedy said. “Black Friday, no matter what, has always been a busy day.”

Many of the folks at Gordmans on Thursday’s Black Friday event were at the store again early Friday morning, like Kristine Edwards of Grand Island.

Edwards is the epitome of a Black Friday shopper. You can tell she was part of an elite group of Black Friday enthusiasts from the T-shirt she was wearing that read “Straight Outta Money #BlackFriday.”

“We actually started here last night,” Edwards said, “I thought I would come back to get a few more things that I needed.”

And she was on a shopping adrenaline rush as she had yet to go to bed from Thursday’s shopping adventure.

“It is a serious Black Friday situation,” Edwards said.

During the three-day Black Friday shopping experience, Edwards said she will more than likely shop at 30 or more stores throughout the Tri-Cities area.

The weather was not a deterrent as Edwards had a gigantic shopping list for her family of four children and family and friends.

Black Friday sale items at Gordmans, including a $15 Google Home Mini, $30 gaming chair, $30 pressure cooker, and an $18 hot air fryer, sold out quickly on Thursday. Another popular item that sold out fast at Gordmans was a weighted blanket for $20.

Growing in popularity over the last several years, weighted blankets combat stress, alleviate restless leg syndrome, aids in sensory processing disorder, may improve sleep, supports the elderly, and recreates a hug.

After their Black Friday shopping experience, the weighted blanket may not wait for Christmas but be used immediately.

“We sell out of them every time we get them,” Kennedy said.

For Edwards, though, she was after shoes for the kids and some special gift items for her husband.

“Black Friday is important because it makes Christmas affordable,” Edwards said. “I was just at Menards, where I was in line for an hour and a half. I was in and out and got everything that I wanted.”

From Menards and Gordmans, Edwards will hit some shoe stores in Grand Island for more shoes for her kids.

“I will probably be done here in a little bit as I have been at it since 4 p.m. yesterday,” Edwards said. “I’ve got to sleep.”

Edwards was the last Black Friday shopper standing as she began her retail adventure with four other partners. They were all wearing matching T-shirts with the Black Friday logo.

“I just dropped off my four partners because they couldn’t make it as long as me,” she said.

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