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Ryan Johnson, Published November 22 2012

Gray Thursday kicks off Black Friday shopping in Fargo

FARGO – Steep discounts on everything from household appliances to big-screen TVs drew plenty of shoppers here on Thanksgiving, with many waiting hours or even days and braving the blustery weather to go home with a good deal.

Lincoln Mousel and his two roommates had never experienced the bargain-hunting frenzy of Black Friday – and with many stores opening at 8 p.m. on Thanksgiving or even earlier, this year’s holiday shopping kickoff was unofficially dubbed Gray Thursday.

But Best Buy’s offer of a 40-inch TV for $180 proved too tempting, and the three set up a tent just outside the front entrance late Tuesday night to get the deal when the store opened at midnight Friday. The experience also served as an unconventional Thanksgiving event for the college students.

“We all have to work this weekend and we couldn’t go home, so we wanted to make the best of it,” he said.

Mousel said the tent helped them deal with the elements – at least until strong winds, snow and freezing temperatures swept across the region Thursday afternoon. The three roommates and a friend they made waiting in the Best Buy line huddled under a pile of sleeping bags and blankets to keep warm.

“The experience is absolutely terrible,” he said.

But Luke Anderson said he only was there to have something to do this week.

“I’m here for the experience,” he said. “They’re the ones who really wanted the TVs. I’m just getting one because I’m not going to wait in line for nothing.”

Milind Kokane was hoping to get a good deal on a laptop, while Robinna Galvez said she drove from Winnipeg with two friends to take part in the American shopping event.

Galvez had only been waiting in line for an hour, but she said the multiple layers of clothes and coats she was wearing, in addition to a heavy blanket, weren’t helping much against the cold wind. When asked if she had any second thoughts about shopping, she didn’t have to think long to answer.

“Yes, right now,” she joked.

But she said it would be worth it if she could snag a good deal on a big TV when Best Buy opened, while her friends stood in line at Wal-Mart to get more discounts before they drove back home on Saturday.

A low price on a TV drew first-time Black Friday shoppers Alex Hogenson and Cole Bachmeier to Target, which was set to open at 9 p.m. Thursday. While the line waiting to get in was smaller than past years – only about 50 braved the harsh elements at 7 p.m. – crowds did show up at Target and other early opening stores, including several in West Acres, shortly before the sales started.

More than 70 stores in the mall were scheduled to be open by midnight this year, compared to just 35 last year when nearly 80,000 shoppers walked through West Acres during the busy shopping day. Sears opened at 8 p.m., drawing long lines of shoppers hoping to snag the doorbuster sales before they ran out.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Ryan Johnson at (701) 241-5587