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Black Friday begins early at the Mall of Georgia

BUFORD — After gobbling down some turkey on Thanksgiving, Carolyn Roland and her family set out from their Macon home for the ultimate girls trip — a shopping extravaganza you could only imagine.

With her daughter, grandaughter and nieces in tow, Roland and her crew spent hours at the Mall of Georgia’s annual Black Friday event — which began early this year, opening at 8 p.m. on Thursday.

Taking a rest at about 6 a.m. in the food court, the ladies were surrounded by bags, even though they had already taken three tips to the car.

“Right now, we wish we had a hotel room,” granddaughter, Kaitlyn Hill said. “But we have to wait until 2,” her mother Gretchen chimed in.

The gals plan to rest overnight before hitting more holiday sales on Saturday.

“Then we’ll hit Tanger (outlets) on the way out,” Heather Jones chimed in. “We try to get all of our Christmas shopping done this weekend.”

Mall reps said the early start was a big one for the mall, and shoppers lingered as the sun came up.

“We had a great kickoff to the Black Friday shopping holiday weekend. There were lots of big family crowds right when we opened, and they continued to arrive throughout the evening and into the early morning,” the mall’s marketing director Carol Cox said, adding that the shoppers seemed as eager for the Thanksgiving Day opening at 8 p.m. as last year’s midnight opening. “Our goal in offering these extended holiday hours is to better accommodate busy holiday schedules and meet the needs of our shoppers eager to kickoff the holiday shopping season, and so far the response has been strong.”

The Black Friday opening gave retailers hope for a positive Christmas season, she added.

“It’s too soon to tell, but the mall and parking lots have been packed with people with lots of shopping bags,” Cox said. “We’re excited to see more friends and families carrying out their holiday shopping traditions through the weekend.”

Tammy Arnold said she enjoyed her annual Black Friday tradition and plans to keep shopping until Christmas.

“It’s the thrill of the season,” Arnold said, as she rested her legs — and her eyes — on a bench. “We had fun, but we’re just getting started (with shopping for the holidays). … “It’s going to last up until the 23rd.”