ABC7's Diane Pathieu was the only Chicago TV reporter inside a Target store as Black Friday started at 9 p.m. Thursday. Thousands lined up at an Orland Park Best Buy Thursday night ahead of opening time at midnight. Across the country, up to 147 million people are expected to shop at some point this weekend.
Retailers are hoping that their Thanksgiving hours will draw shoppers who prefer to head to stores after their turkey dinner rather than braving crowds Friday morning.
It is the earliest start to the holiday shopping season ever, with shoppers sacrificing Thanksgiving dinner to hopefully get the best deals of the year.
"I'm here because my mom is making me, because she said I couldn't eat any of the Thanksgiving food if i didn't hold her place in line," said Alex Horton.
Bargain hunters began lining up early Thursday morning and braved the elements Thursday night to get the early deals being offered. When the rain came down, they didn't give up -- they just got creative.
"First we had umbrellas, but that didn't really work out, so we just got this cardboard box and just assembled it," said Inam Sharif.
Target and Toys "R" Us are among the major stores offering up sale prices traditionally saved until Friday -- on Thursday.
Folks waiting rushed in as the doors opened at 8 p.m. at the Toys "R" Us in North Riverside.
"I kind of like the thrill of waiting in line and running into the store and getting my stuff," said shopper Keoshia Jackson. "My coworkers all laugh at me every year - they'll even call me and say 'Hey, can you get this?' because they know that I'm going to be in line."
Inside the Target store on Elston, TVs were in carts, tagged, and lined up, ready for customers.
"It's like getting ready for the playoffs, Thanksgiving is the beginning of the playoffs, with the super bowl being Christmas Eve. This is the first game and we're ready to go," said store manager Lee Crumb.
Prices are being slashed 50 percent or more to lure customers in early this year and get holiday spending started now. But that means cutting the Thanksgiving holiday short for families that have to work or that choose to wait in line.
Claudia Fonseca just got creative and took Thanksgiving to go.
"We brought a plate, but that's about it, we've been here since 11 a.m. And that's it," said Fonseca.
In the end, these customers say, it's all about tradition and a whole lot of savings.
"It's a fun experience i think everyone should at least try it once," said Asher Baig.
Every single register at the Target on Elston was open and was busy Thursday night. They will stay open through Friday night.