Amy Brocato Pearson
Jacksonville Daily Progress
The Leon Davis family of Rusk is big on tradition, says matriarch Joann Davis. Every year on Thanksgiving they smoke a turkey, roast a honey-baked ham and play family chess tournaments after dinner.
But that's about to change.
This year, instead of donning stretchy pants and reclining in front of a football game, Joann is lacing up her runnings shoes and heading to Wal-mart on Thanksgiving night.
The retail giant is opening for the first time on Thanksgiving night, at 8 p.m., instead of waiting until midnight or later on Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving, touted as the busiest shopping day of the year.
"I'm expecting more of a crowd this year than in years past," said Kevin Olson, manager of the Jackson ville Wal-mart on South Jackson Street.
Davis, for one, is getting out on Thanksgiving night to take advantage of the stellar savings to be had by shopping early.
"With the way the economy is, I have to try to save every penny I can," she said.
High atop her list of shopping targets are electronics - the new Wii U gaming console for her grandson and a Kindle Fire HD for her niece.
"I'm going to leave right after we eat dinner," Davis said. "I am betting the lines will be long."
Wal-mart will put items on sale at 8 p.m., then have a different set of sale items at 10 p.m. and again at 5 a.m. the following morning.
There will be lines inside the store for all the hot items, with associates helping keep lines orderly and controlled, Olson said.
"It's going to be really, really, really, really hectic. Maybe I need to add some more 'reallys'," he said.
Olson couldn't divulge exactly what the sale items would be Tuesday at press time, but he did concede that there would be "a lot of really, really, really, really good buys."
Beall's on South Jackson Street is also opening for the first time at 8 p.m Thanksgiving night.
"A lot of our sales associates are very excited about the prospect," said store assistant manager Amanda Heron.
Heron expects to see a lot of shoppers on Thanksgiving night as well. While Black Friday is "one of the biggest" sales days of the year at Beall's, shoppers flock to the retailer on several other days as well for great deals.
"We have more doorbusters this year," Heron revealed. "It's a great time to save some serious money.
And saving some serious money is what Christina Kendrick of Jacksonville is all about.
She shops every year on Black Friday, out scouting Christmas gifts for her three children, Jaylin, 9, Xavier, 8, and Hailee, 7.
She scours the newspaper the day before the sales for all the good deals and arrives about three hours before the doors open, accompanied by her husband, Roy. This year, she's got her eye on the 2013 NFL Xbox game. Last year, she scored a Wii for her children and has also gotten great deals on housewares in years past.
"I love saving on great deals," she said, adding that she'd probably go to the Toys R Us in Tyler to shop.
Leah Sandefer of Rusk tackles Black Friday every year, but admits that deep down, she "dreads" it.
"It just gets so hectic," she said.
But with eight grandchildren and five great-grandchildren, Sandefer and female relatives brave the crowds.
"It's been a tradition for years and years," she said. "Everyone comes for Thanksgiving and the girls get up early the next day and go."
This year, they'll be hitting the Jacksonville Wal-mart at 8 p.m. Thanksgiving night.
"We usually shop for three to four hours then go home," she said. "My mother would even go until she became ill. She didn't buy a thing, but she liked to watch the people."
On Sandefer's list: electronics.
Joy Davis of Rusk will not be joining the throngs of people at the stores on Thanksgiving night.
"I think they should leave Thanksgiving as Thanksgiving and not shop for Christmas," she said. "I have heard of people talking about (going) but I don't know anyone who actually is."
Davis does, however, shop on Black Friday.
"I will spend about $500 on Black Friday, but I get good deals," she said. "A lot of things are cheap enough that you can buy a lot."
Her two children, 14 and 11, are looking for boots, video games and clothes this year, and their holiday hopes are enough for Davis to brave the crowds.
"When I go Friday morning, it's awful, makes me wonder why I go," she said. "But then you find bargains like movies, which go for $2 and $5, and that's when my kids load up."