Friday was a day of firsts for Jeremy Zook.
He'd never been Black Friday shopping before this year, nor had he ever had kids to buy Christmas presents for. Now that the Lewistown resident is dating a woman with young children, he figured it was time to take the plunge and venture out in search of Black Friday deals.
"Christmas seems more special now that I have gifts to buy for the kids," Zook says. "I'm having fun with this so far, actually."
State College resident Stefanie Kyle was also enjoying herself while strolling through Best Buy on Friday morning. She says that she goes Black Friday shopping with her best friend every year. Though their lives have gotten more hectic as their kids have gotten older, Black Friday gives them the chance to spend the morning together looking for presents.
"I've also gotten some pretty good deals, but I probably could've gotten those online," Kyle says. "But instead, we choose each year to get up and come out."
Shelly Hetrick -- who drove out to the Nittany Mall all the way from Elk County -- also uses Black Friday to spend time with loved ones. Each year Hetrick, her sisters and nieces make a day trip to go Black Friday shopping. This is their first year in State College, having gone to Pittsburgh and Altoona the past two years.
After the shopping frenzy she experienced the past few years, she was pleasantly surprised by how calm State College was on Friday morning. Though the mall had some small crowds, she was happy she didn't have to wait in line for an hour to purchase her Christmas treasures.
Zook says he actually began his Black Friday shopping on Thanksgiving afternoon to make sure he was able to pick up some popular gifts before they were all gone. Zook says Thursday was actually far more crazed and busy than Friday, forcing him to pick up only the essentials and come back again on Friday to finish his shopping.
"That's kind of ridiculous," Zook says. "I used to hate Black Friday because of that, the whole commercialized side of it."
Samantha Smith, who was on the hunt for deals at Walmart, says this Black Friday seems calmer than in years past. She thinks a big part of that is how early Black Friday began this year, with many stores opening on Thanksgiving evening. It seems like a lot of in-demand items were bought up on Thursday, with Friday's selection feeling "picked through and left over."
Bert Messelink of Julian was out in State College on Friday looking for Christmas gifts for his wife. Though he doesn't go Black Friday shopping each year, he was also surprised at how little business was left over from Thursday's rush.
"I can remember when people started Christmas shopping two weeks beforehand," Messelink says. "Over the last 50 years, Black Friday has evolved into a second holiday after Thanksgiving, one about going out and spending money."
He realizes how important the Christmas season is for retail businesses and understands their attempts to draw shoppers into stores. However, Messelink also questions whether Black Friday has grown too much. He feels that retail workers should be given Thanksgiving to spend with their families, instead of being forced to spend their day at work.
At the end of the day, Hetrick says how someone spends Thanksgiving and the day afterwards is a matter of personal choice.
"If you want to be with your family, then be with your family. If you want to shop, then shop," Hetrick says. "If you want to be with your family while you shop, then going shopping with your family. To each their own."
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