Clad in sweaters and armed with coffee cups, wish lists and some extra money to spend, Hernando County shoppers hit the stores late Thursday and early Friday morning to take advantage of Black Friday deals.
Many major retailers opened Thursday evening to kick off the holiday shopping season. By mid-morning on Friday at many stores, including Target, Wal-Mart and Kohl's, shoppers were flowing steadily in and out of the doors, but the wait in long lines seemed to be over until next year.
Before 10 a.m. at Wal-Mart on U.S. 41 in Brooksville, Thomas and Angela Swansey were securing their new, 60-inch television in the trunk of their car with bungee cords.
Angela Swansey said Wal-Mart was their first and only stop of the day - because the store wasn't too busy and because it had the best deals on items they were seeking.
"A guy just came up to us and said, 'You'll never need to go to the movies anymore,'?" Swansey said of the big-screen TV.
Electronics were on the lists of many shoppers who lined up outside Target on Aerial Way on Thursday night. According to store team leader Sarah Vilardi, between 300 and 400 people - including five or six who camped out in tents - were ready when employees opened the doors at 8 p.m.
"The majority of guests went straight to the electronics," Vilardi said, adding most were interested in the discounts on televisions and Nikon cameras.
"Everything went really good; it was a smooth process and we were there to help them," Vilardi said. "It was very successful."
Vilardi said the deals continued Saturday, with 50 percent off Christmas trees and buy-one-get-one rolls of wrapping paper.
At about 10:30 a.m. Friday, cousins Tracy Young and Adriann Stewart were beginning their annual Black Friday shopping pilgrimage, which takes them along U.S. 41, over to U.S. 19 and east on State Road 50, ending with soups and sandwiches at Panera Bread sometime after the sun set.
Young, who works at a Publix supermarket, said she has been shopping with Stewart, a teacher at Moton Elementary School, for the past three years.
"We love it," Young said. "Now that the kids are older, it's not as stressful. . I'm not very busy and not in a hurry."
Young and Stewart, whose family has lived in Brooksville since 1857, said they have seen the city and Hernando County grow a lot in their lifetimes, with many changes including those in shopping.
"It's nice not having to leave Brooksville," Young said.
Across Aerial Way, three generations were preparing for a day of shopping at Kohl's.
"It's a family affair," said Leah Herrick, of Spring Hill, along with family members visiting from Connecticut, Arizona and Annapolis. The guys decided to golf, they said, and the women hit the stores.
The youngest shopper in the family, 18-month-old Madeleine Herrick, was on her second Black Friday shopping trip, said her mother, Jamie Herrick. "She was in the womb for the first one."
On the western side of the county, both Sports Authority and JCPenney in Spring Hill off U.S. 19 had specials and extended hours that lasted throughout the night and early morning.
The first 80 customers to enter Sports Authority between 6 p.m. Thursday and 6 a.m. Friday received $10 to $500 in "scratch off bucks" they could apply to purchases at the store, employees said.
The sporting goods chain hired 5,000 employees nationwide for holiday help and has extended its hours throughout that time period.
Footwear and basketball hoops were selling strong, a sales assistant said Friday, as did the buy-one-get-one-free footwear.
JCPenney store leader Mary Bennett's shift ended at 1:30 a.m. Friday, she said, and even at that early hour the store had a steady flow of customers.
"We still had customers looking for values," she said, adding that was an incentive for many to shop during the odd hours.
When her shift began at 8 p.m. Thursday, there were probably 300 customers in the store, she said.
"Ladies attire wear has been selling like crazy," Bennett said.
Women's sweaters were doing particularly well, sales assistants said, which has been the case most holidays since the store opened in 2008. Once the weather turns cooler, they said, sweater sales are bound to follow.