November 28, 2013 Updated: November 29, 2013 at 7:07 pm
Although this is the first year for big retailers such as Macy's to welcome shoppers on Thanksgiving Day, some are old pros. Both Kmart and Wal-Mart have been open every Thanksgiving for more than two decades.
The doorbuster sales rush before sunup Thursday at the Kmart at 3020 N. Nevada Ave. was the earliest in the Springs, yet still pretty typical for both shoppers and the store.
A line of about 200 people stretched from the front door to the garden center, in preparation for the 6 a.m. opening, manager Chuck Winslow estimated - about the same as last year.
A $39.99 electronic tablet was one of the big draws, along with price-slashed televisions and toys.
To discourage trampling, employees handed out numbered flyers to the bleary-eyed queued up outside, just before letting the crowd inside. Customers then could exchange the flyers for the coveted deeply discounted items.
It was the first round of doorbuster specials, with the second occurring at 7 p.m. Thursday evening and the final at 6 a.m. on Black Friday.
Winslow said the competition has heated up more than ever, with stores such as Best Buy, Toys R Us, J.C. Penney, Kohl's and Target opening Thursday in the early evening, as opposed to the now-traditional Black Friday morning openings.
"Thanksgiving is a week later this year than last year, so there are six fewer days between Thanksgiving and Christmas. People are realizing that and want to get their shopping started," Winslow said. "We're anticipating being very busy."
One difference this year is that Kmart will be open until 11 p.m. Friday. Winslow said that last year the store closed for four hours Thursday night, from 4 to 8 p.m.
"Instead of having lines outside of the store tonight, we'll have them inside" this year, he said.
Shale Norwitz was first in line when he set up camp outside Best Buy on North Academy Boulevard at 9 a.m. Monday to await the store's 6 p.m. opening on Thursday.
"I was sleeping in a tent," said Norwitz whose wife brought him a to-go Thanksgiving meal earlier in the day. "I had a generator, propane heater and an little electric space heater run off the generator to keep me warm at night."
By 3 p.m. Thursday, nearly two dozen people in thick coats and hats were lined up behind Norwitz outside the store's shuttered front doors.
Dan Yaciuk survived Black Friday shopping a few years ago, and recalls it as "a free for all," said the Fountain resident,
"I learned my lesson. I came prepared this time," said Yaciuk, who popped open a camp chair and joined the line around 2:30 p.m. He had his eye on a video camera, a gift for his sister. "It's a good deal, $80 off."
Some early morning shoppers, like Danyalla Cade, put a turkey in the oven before bargain hunting.
"It went in at 5 a.m., and hopefully, will be done by 3 p.m.," Cade said, while waiting in line to pay for her purchases, buy-one-get-one-free games and some videos.
After snagging a gas grill that she scoped out the day before, Debi Baumann was heading home just past 6:30 a.m. to start cooking her family's turkey dinner.
"Last night, my son said, 'Stores shouldn't be open on Thanksgiving. I can't believe you're going to do this.'"
But after Baumann mentioned what kinds of discounts they could find at 6 a.m. Thursday, there was a different attitude.
"If you put in a little effort, why wouldn't you want a better deal?" said her husband Gary.
"We're able to get really nice things within our budget," Debi Baumann added. "It is worth it. You just have to be selective."
Just because they were hitting the stores early doesn't mean shoppers agree with breaking the tradition of stores being closed on Thanksgiving, though.
"Everybody's doing it this year. It's not right," Cade said. "It makes it harder for shoppers. You have to pick and choose."
Erika Weaver also is mad about Black Friday seemingly being moved up one day.
"I don't get to spend as much time with my son or husband on Thanksgiving," she said.
Weaver lined up at 11 a.m. at Wal-Mart to wait for the 6 p.m. doorbuster sales.
Last year, she was one of five people who got a new PlayStation in the first-come, first-served line.
This year, she wanted to grab a bicycle for her son. Then, she was heading to Target for an iPad and on to GameStop for its midnight opening.
"None of my family will go with me. They think I'm crazy," Weaver said. "When you're on a budget and you can stretch your money twice as far, that's probably the best part."
Stephanie Earls contributed to this story.