Welcome to our running coverage of the local Black Friday shopping madness. Here's a recap of the midnight-4 a.m. shopping scene. See sales from mentioned retailers by clicking on the links that accompany this page.
Our first area of coverage? Columbus Park Crossing. When I left the shopping area around 1 a.m., cars still filled the parking lot. You likely won't get a spot right in front of your store of choice, but spaces are still available.
Lines still stood outside Toys R Us and Old Navy when I left the area. Toys R Us opened at 10 p.m. Thursday and Old Navy opened at midnight Thursday.
Across the way, Walmart's parking lot was pretty packed. The major electronics sales started at 5 a.m., but some sales on toys and apparel began at midnight.
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If you're hitting the Columbus Park Crossing area in the morning, remember that the Starbucks on Veterans Parkway is open. I set up my laptop station in the coffee shop around 1 a.m. and there was a consistent flow of people inside. I think most of them are shoppers.
I started my day around 11:50 p.m. Thursday. Old Navy was scheduled to open at midnight, but the line already reached Sears and spanned about 1,000 people.
Store manager Todd Hardy started letting people in around 11:55 p.m. The store's capacity is around 380, but they had a 300-person capacity this morning to keep things calm inside.
Did it work? "It was calm, but definitely busier than I've ever seen it," said Melissa Miller, 19, of Columbus. She shopped with her best friend and co-worker, Merideth Slaker, 23.
Miller came to Old Navy primarily for the free Dance Central video game that came with a $25 purchase. During our interview, another shopper tried to buy the game from her. She declined.
As shoppers waited for Kohl's to open at 3 a.m., Toys R Us remained another early morning retail hot spot in Columbus Park Crossing.
"It was kind of crazy," Hailey Rosenblum, 25, said of the Toys R Us experience. She hails from Rome, Ga., and her husband will soon be stationed at Fort Benning. She was in Columbus visiting relatives.
She arrived at Toys R Us around 9 p.m. Thursday and stood in line for about 90 minutes. One of the items she came to buy -- a children's work bench -- was sold out when she got in the store. She still purchased some items and waited in line for around 40 minutes to pay for her purchases.
I arrived at Best Buy around 2 a.m. and the line had already curved around the store. Remember, this was three hours before the scheduled opening time.
At the front of the line? Columbus resident Josh Spencer, 19, and his two friends. He came for a laptop and a $1 cell phone. To get the coveted No. 1 position, the three friends had to arrive at 6:27 p.m. Thursday.
If you're reading this article at 11 a.m. and contemplating a trip to Best Buy, proceed with caution. Best Buy shoppers are hardcore. You likely just can't show up in the afternoon and get you most coveted item. I spoke with people who arrived at the store around 2 a.m. and they doubted they'd get all the items they wanted.
After Best Buy, we went to Kohl's. At least 1,000 people stood outside prior to the 3 a.m. opening. But things seemed to go pretty smoothly -- aside from some line-jumping drama, that is.
I didn't witness the scene, but I arrived in time for people to tell me about somebody who tried to cut in line near people who'd been waiting for about two hours.
Needless to say, the plan didn't go well. Somebody even told me another shopper "went bulldog" on the offender. To make matters worse, the alleged line jumper apparently only wanted to buy towels. I guess that doesn't go over well with people who skip sleep for big-ticket items.
We rounded out our morning with a trip to Target. Prior to the 4 a.m. opening, the line stretched to Hibbett Sports at the end of the shopping area. A light rain started at 3:30 a.m. We estimated 1,500-2,000 people waited outside Target. The big draw was a 40-inch flat-screen TV for $298.
Columbus resident Tracie Cannon, 38, and her six-person shopping group arrived at 6:30 p.m. Thursday to secure the third spot in line. They passed the time with shopping cart races, DVDs and seven trips to Steak 'n Shake. They wanted the aforementioned TV, plus a fire pit, clothes and other items.
In the end, things worked out for Cannon's group. They got the TV. Speaking of shopping victories, some crowd members applauded when the first shopper exited Target.
And yes, some line jumpers showed up. Despite security efforts, we saw two shoppers slyly slip underneath caution tape and enter the store. That's living on the edge, I suppose.
Overall, it was a successful morning. My biggest wisdom for afternoon shoppers? Be realistic about what will be left in the stores. When it comes to Black Friday, the early bird often really does get the worm -- or the flat-screen TV.