Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving shopping extravaganza, used to begin with stores opening for customers before the sunrise.
This year topped that.
A few hours after sunset - on Thursday - Crystal Wendell, of Badger, was the third person in line at the Fort Dodge Target store. She had arrived around 5 p.m. for the 9 p.m. opening, along with family and friends, something many in her crowd are used to.
-Messenger photo by Hans Madsen
About 40 shoppers wait outside the Fort Dodge Sears store Thursday night. Sears opened its doors at 8 p.m. Thanksgiving evening, getting a jump on the traditional Black Friday morning opening.
"Normally, we're the whole midnight crew," Wendell said.
Sitting outside for hours required plenty of warm clothing, particularly because the wind blew in some seasonal cold right about the time Wendell arrived. But the shoppers were ready. Most of those in the line, which stretched almost to the outside corner of the store, were bundled in heavy coats and blankets.
To pass time, they fiddled with electronic games, puzzle books, or, in Wendell's case. just talked.
"You get newbies," she said, "and you get the seasoned ones."
Chris Wendell enjoyed the conversation. "You hear stories of sales past," he said.
Why do these shoppers do it?
There is the love of a bargain, definitely. Some people aim to get that special gift, for that special price. But some, as in Crystal Wendell's case, admit it might all be a little crazy.
"You always hope that next year you'll be smart enough to stay home," she said.
At the Fort Dodge Sears store, the doors were slated to open Thursday at 8 p.m.
Marlene Bigness, of Fort Dodge, and Carla McCollough, of Webster City, were almost the first in line. The first shopper in line left after getting a voucher for one of the big door buster items, they said.
Bigness and McCollough were sticking it out.
"There's other stuff we want too," McCollough said.
Bigness offered that the Thursday night openings might be going a bit too far.
"They need to move it back," she said. "It's taking away from the holiday."
She pointed out that in order to be open, store employees have to work.
"They should have time with their family," Bigness said.
Trent Dittmer, of Ames, waited to begin his shopping until the Crossroads Mall opened at 6 a.m. Friday. He's a relative newcomer to Black Friday shopping.
"It's only my second time," Dittmer said, "I usually sleep in."
Later, he did just that; he took advantage of a display couch to catch a short nap. Even though he scored some bargain movies, he's not an early morning convert.
"I can understand why people do it though," Dittmer said.
Marilyn Carlson, of Stanhope, avoided the opening rush Friday.
"I didn't come in real early," she said.
She wasn't planning a long day either.
"I'm just trying to finish up some shopping," Carlson said.
Stephen Larson, of Dayton; his brother, John Larson, of Independence, Mo.; and their mother, Laura Larson, found a bargain in the door buster display just outside the Younkers store: famous brand pillows for just $14.99.
The price made buying more than two tempting.
"We might as well get 10," Stephen Larson said.
Larson said he enjoyed the energy of the shoppers, as well as the surprise deals.
Laura Larson was happy. The day's shopping had saved some cash.
"Everything we bought today has been on sale," she said.
The day was good for merchants too.
Carol Jones, Book World manager, saw a lot of customers and an increase in sales, she said.
"It's much better than a normal Friday."