It’s fair to say Robert Chamberlain wanted a 50-inch TV badly, especially one for $288 at Kmart. The Dixon resident started waiting outside the Sterling store at 3:30 p.m. on a balmy Thanksgiving.
He was the first in line, which extended outside the door to the Affinity Cash Loans store at the end of the building.
Kmart had special hours for Black Friday – actually, Black Thursday. The store was open from 8 p.m. Thursday to 3 a.m. Friday.
Like Chamberlain, most of the others interviewed also wanted TVs, but an assistant manager announced the store had enough TVs only for the first group of people – perhaps a couple of dozen.
Chamberlain, 49, said he had never before waited outside a store for Black Friday sales.
The woman behind him in line got there shortly after he arrived. She was in her car at first, but saw Chamberlain outside the store.
“I figured I’d better get in line,” she said.
Chamberlain’s wife, Linette, 46, arrived at 5:30 p.m. for entertainment. She played music on her mandolin.
7:41 p.m. Thursday, Kmart
Jayme Wyatt, 15, was near the end of the line. She was in a group that wanted to get a TV. The Mendota resident said she had gone on Black Friday excursions before.
She said she planned to get up at 5 a.m. Friday and return home to go Black Friday shopping in LaSalle.
Jessy Smith, 22, of Sterling, who was in the middle section of the line, had been there for about a half hour. She had hoped to get there earlier, but a turkey dinner intruded.
“I put Thanksgiving before shopping,” she said.
7:49 p.m. Thursday, Kmart
Billie Egan, 34, of Sterling, was in the first half of the line. She, too, wanted a TV, but she wasn’t expecting to get one.
“My chances are slim to none,” she said.
But she said the trip was worth it. She planned to get some Christmas shopping done instead.
7:59 p.m. Thursday, Kmart
The assistant manager emerged from the store to announce that employees would open just one door – to keep a steady flow so that people wouldn’t be trampled.
One person shouted, “On your marks.”
The doors soon opened. Employees had carts ready for customers.
8:04 p.m. Thursday, Kmart
Most headed to the electronics department. A few put the remaining large TVs into their carts. No fights.
Not all were happy, though.
“What a joke,” one customer said, leaving after the TVs ran out.
9:36 p.m. Thursday, Walmart, Dixon
More than 100 people gathered around bins of electronic items covered in plastic. The store planned to uncover them at 10 p.m.
A nearby line snaked through several aisles for the most popular item – the $38 Blu-ray player.
The parking lot was nearly full, as was the one for Sterling’s Walmart.
9:51 p.m. Thursday, Walmart
Bonita Willis, 40, and her fiance, Scott Bonnell, 41, both of Amboy, were at the edge of the crowd near the bins.
“We’re Black Friday virgins,” Willis said. “We’re going to see what they have. We didn’t come with any specific intentions.”
9:57 p.m. Thursday, Walmart
Three minutes early, employees uncovered the bins. Many shouted in excitement. One woman fell down. She got her loot anyway.
“I’m fine,” she insisted.
11:54 p.m. Thursday, Kohl’s, Sterling
Nearly 250 people stood in line for a midnight opening at Kohl’s. The temperature had plunged to 39 degrees.
At the front were Chuck, 33, and Angie Arwine, 28, of Rock Falls. She got there at 6 p.m., while he went to sales at Walmart.
“I dropped her off and went to another war zone,” Chuck said.
They were planning to get an Android Tablet.
12:01 a.m. Thursday, Kohl’s
One minute late, an employee opened the front door. Shoppers streamed in.
From the side, a few women tried to cut in. Some in the line glared. Others protested. One man shouted an obscenity.
“Calm down; you’ll get your deals,” one of the women responded.
The employee told the group where the end of the line was.
Undeterred, one woman kept getting closer.
“Back up. Back up,” the employee ordered in a loud voice.
“I’m not going to move,” the woman said.
The employee called for security, but when she looked away, the woman slipped in.
4:51 a.m. Friday, Galena Avenue, Dixon
The wind whipped and howled, gusting between 25 and 35 mph. Thirty-two degrees flashed on the lighted sign of Sterling Federal Bank. Two vehicles waited in the drive-through line at McDonald’s.
It was, by all accounts, just another weekday morning. A few cars passed through the major intersections in town. Convenience stores were among the few businesses with their lights on.
4:57 a.m. Friday, Walmart
Two women, presumably a mother and daughter, loaded their haul into the back of a minivan – a few large boxes and a couple of plastic bags. Each clutched a cup of coffee in her left hand.
The younger of the two women, clad in a white fleece pullover and a black fleece headband, pushed the empty shopping cart across the aisle to the corrall, heaving it toward the metal rails and shuffling back to the waiting van.
5 a.m. Friday, Walmart
The grocery side of the superstore was open. Cashiers waited at the ready. Most everyone in the store was gathered near the salty snacks aisle.
One by one, sleepy shoppers in sweatshirts and sweatpants, many without coats, slowly wheeled away a 50-inch high-definition TV, steadying the teetering box in the basket of the shopping cart with one hand and pushing the cart with the other. They all had waited most of the night for the hot item, on sale for $298 as part of the third sale event in 9 hours at the big-box retailer.
5:02 a.m. Friday, Walmart
A woman asked a store employee to scan an item – a food processor – in her cart to verify the price. It was $20.
“How long have you been here?” the woman asked.
“I’ve been here forever,” the worker replied.
5:04 a.m. Friday, Walmart
The shelves and aisles – except the area from which the deeply discounted TVs were distributed – were surprisingly tidy and well stocked.
A bespectacled man in khaki pants and an argyle sweater, presumably a store manager, thanked shoppers for their patience as they plodded down the main aisle with their loot. Two weary female employees leaned on a display of small electronics.
5:10 a.m. GameStop, Dixon
The “open” sign flashed in the front window. Store manager James Sales worked in the back office. An employee dusted displays at the front of the small store.
“We’ve been open since midnight,” Sales said. “We had a line of people then, and we did a lot of business between midnight and 1 a.m.”
Most people came for video game systems that came bundled with a few games, including the popular “Call of Duty: Black Ops II.”
5:14 a.m. Friday, Downtown Sports, Dixon
A garbage truck idled in the narrow drive on the south side of the store – a reminder that it was not a holiday, but business as usual for some people.
5:25 a.m. Friday, ShopKo, Dixon
About 10 people pushed carts through the quiet store, which had been open since 9 p.m. Thursday. Not one was in the electronics department. Most folks browsed the housewares, toys and clothing departments.
5:30 a.m. Friday, ShopKo
Cindy Kenney, 57, and her daughter, Sarah, 33, of Dixon flipped through dance-themed shirt-and-pants sets in the girls’ department.
The women have gone Black Friday shopping the past 2 years. They had been out since 5 a.m. and planned later in the morning to hit Bergner’s in Sterling.
“We take our chances,” Cindy Kenney said. “A lot of times, there’s plenty of stuff left without having to wait in line and going a little later.”
The women usually go out to breakfast and get home by noon with a good dent in their Christmas shopping list.
“We get home, and crash and burn,” Cindy said.
5:40 a.m. West First Street, Dixon
Downtown was quiet. No cars. No people. No lights on anywhere.
Dry leaves blew through the intersections and down the sidewalks. A black cat slunk across Hennepin Avenue, from KSB Town Square Centre toward Books on First.
7:21 a.m. Friday, Walmart, Dixon
A woman in a black winter coat exited the store with three plastic bags full of groceries, including a bunch of bananas. She stopped to pick up a wreath that had blown off its display.
Employees, brighter and bushier tailed than their late-night and early-morning counterparts, removed the plastic wrapping from food displays that stood where electronics and toys had been for the shopping blitz.
7:26 a.m. Friday, Walmart
A stocker stood on a ladder and changed the price above a shelf of items near the seasonal merchandise. A co-worker arranged items on lower shelves.
“I only got 4 hours of sleep,” the stocker said. “I don’t feel like I’ll be very productive today.”
7:50 a.m. Friday, Radio Shack, Sterling
Derek Flannery, 19, of Rock Falls and a friend, who was wrapped in a blanket, were among more than 25 people shivering in line, waiting for the electronics store to open at 8 a.m.
“It depends on the deals,” Flannery said about Black Friday shopping. “I usually stick with online shopping. It’s a lot easier than this garbage.”
8 a.m. Friday, Radio Shack
An employee unlocked the door, and people flooded the store, most of them making a beeline for the front counter, behind which were kept the most sought-after items.
A teenage boy bought a pair of headphones. An older couple examined a GPS navigation system. A woman bought a laptop computer.
“They don’t have any more,” a woman in a Rock Falls Rockets winter hat said, walking past a line of people on her way out the door. “Why put them in the flier if you’re not going to carry them?”
Quite a few people gravitated toward the 32-gigabyte flash drives on sale for just $10, although a handful looked at cellphones.
8:14 a.m. Friday, Menard’s, Sterling
One of the main aisles was crowded with women pushing carts that were filled not with home improvement items but with pajamas, slippers, hats, scarves and fleece blankets, all at deep discounts until 11 a.m.
The seasonal departments were hopping, too: Parents and grandparents loaded their carts with toys and tins of cookies and popcorn.
8:34 a.m. Friday, Kohl’s, Sterling
The parking lot was packed. A woman driving a silver Chevrolet Malibu noticed two women loading their stuff into the back of their vehicle, which was only five spots from the store. She flipped her left turn signal and waited, and waited as they placed the last bag in the trunk, as they closed the hatch, and as they wheeled their carts back to the store.
Within a few minutes, a line of cars formed behind her, and a nearby pickup truck, blocked by the snaking line, performed a multipoint turn to get out. The woman finally gave up and took a spot much farther away.
9:03 a.m. Friday, Goodwill, Sterling
Between 10 and 15 people were scattered among the racks of clothes, all of which were on sale, either for $1.23 or 50 percent off.
“Today, it’s been OK,” a cashier said. “With our last one [$1.23 sale, just 2 weeks ago], there were no carts left all day.”
9:30 a.m. Friday, Walmart, Rock Falls:
Shoppers were busy browsing for the best deals in the electronics department. There was a section of discount DVDs in the back of the store, where you also found Willie Cochran.
Cochran, 39, of Lyndon, had a cart full of items. He said he and his family typically visit the Sterling Walmart, which he said is usually a “madhouse.” This year, the family decided to shop at the Rock Falls Walmart instead. Cochran made his first trip to Walmart on Thursday night, for the day before Black Friday sale, he said.
“We came here, and it was really organized, everybody was real well-mannered,” he said. “We got everything that we wanted for the kids.”
He said his children wanted to shop and together the group had a good family outing.
“Everybody was excited and everybody had fun,” he said. “There was no fighting or arguing. We have three kids, and normally it doesn’t go that well, but it was really nice.”
He snagged a couple of televisions, including a 32-inch Emerson. He also snapped up a fleece blanket and pots and pans. On Friday morning, he had a sewing machine in his cart, which he picked up for $50. He also had two $10 TRU cooking griddles.
Cochran estimated he and his girlfriend had spent $1,000 between them.
10:00 a.m. Friday, Air Play Sports, Sterling
Local business Air Play Sports and Espresso was open overnight, beginning at 11 p.m. Thursday. On Friday morning, things appeared to have quieted down. Rebecca Ryan, daughter of co-owner Tim McNinch, said the store was quieter than a typical Friday morning.
She attributed it to people on vacation who might still be sleeping, or shoppers who were on the prowl for deals.
Moments later, Sterling Mayor Skip Lee and City Manager Scott Shumard walked into the store. The mayor, who didn’t have any shopping bags in tow, ordered a cup of coffee.
“I am going to do all my shopping local, but I am waiting until the very last minute,” Lee said. The mayor said local businesses can’t stay open unless customers support them.
“The whole shop small concept, we’re supporting our friends and our neigbhors when we shop local,” he said. “From that standpoint, it’s a good thing.”
10:49 a.m. Friday, J.C. Penney, Sterling
The department store was busy. A young woman greeted customers, handing out tiny buttons that offered chances to win prizes through Christmas Eve. The lines to check out were long.
11 a.m. Friday, Bergner’s, Sterling
With just 2 hours left to get doorbuster deals on bedding, small appliances and shoes, shoppers filled the store, many clutching coupons and calculating the final price of their goods after discounts.
Women tried on winter coats. An elderly woman wrapped a colorful scarf around her neck. Women tried on shoes.