This morning at 8 found Regan Tweedy holding a garbage-bag-sized sack of Barbies, Legos and Spiderman paraphernalia, standing with 20 other shoppers in a line that snaked through Kay Bee Toys into the Nugget Mall lobby. Despite the early hour, her shopping day was already half over.
"We got up at 3:30 and were at Fred's at 4:30," she said. "By 5 a.m., when the doors opened, it was hard to move around in there."
Today traditionally is the busiest shopping day of the year. In Juneau retailers opened early and held morning sales. Parking lots were packed as shoppers flocked to stores to stock up for Christmas.
For 10 years in Juneau, Tweedy has been rising early the day after Thanksgiving to shop. This year she and her sister shopped together, communicating in crowded stores by cell phone. At the six-hour sale at Fred Meyer, Tweedy bought $800 worth of half-off socks. She had to use two shopping carts.
"People suck up to me all year long to get on my sock list," Tweedy said.
At Fred Meyer the aisles were crowded with bleary-eyed consumers clutching coffee, carts full of sale socks, electronics and sheets.
Some shoppers rolled their carts outside to get from one side of the store to the other without congestion. Intercom voices quacked over the din of shopper conversation, directing patrons to newly opened registers. A flute version of "Silent Night" crooned from ceiling speakers mounted above the frenzied scene.
Ruth Anne Brososky pushed a cart full of body pillows through the bedding section. Her 5-year-old son, Travis, hung between her hands from the cart handle. His patience obviously waning, he rocked rambunctiously until he was distracted by the distant electronic voice of an Elmo doll asking, "Did you know that bananas taste yummy?"
"They've got VCRs for 50 bucks and I bought two of 'em," Brososky said, interrupting herself to ask Travis to hold still. "I have a huge Disney movie collection that he (Travis) uses every day."
Aaron Kasler arrived at Fred Meyer at 4:30 a.m. to open the Espresso Yourself coffee cart. Within three hours, he had used 10 gallons of chocolate milk making coffee drinks for early shoppers.
"We had to get two people today, one to cover the register and one for the drinks," Kasler said. "Sometimes there were five or six customers lined up."
Pinky Kimlinger and her daughter-in-law Anilisa Kimlinger began their day at Gottschalks at 6 a.m. By 8:30, they were at Kmart pushing a cart of Christmas-light snowflakes, comparing bargains on napkins. Kmart was subdued, and shoppers milled with little congestion in the aisles.
The Kimlingers said the Gottschalks lines were very long and they decided to avoid Kay Bee Toys because they know, as Anilisa said, "it is always crazy." They shop at this time every year. Often, one will shop while the other stands in line. Last year, they used walkie-talkies to communicate in the store, Anilisa Kimlinger said.
"Anybody who lives in Alaska knows you have to ship-out early," Pinky Kimlinger said. "You can't ship out early if you don't shop early."
Julia O'Malley can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.