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Trading turkey, fixings, for discounts, long lines

Waterford — Some went without an extra slice of pumpkin pie on Thursday. Others rushed their Thanksgiving dinners and some didn't eat at all, all in the name of a good deal.

Retailers like Sears, Toys R Us and Wal-Mart were scheduled to open their stores just hours after many holiday revelers had finished their Thanksgiving meals. And as shoppers lined up outside, store employees were reporting to work.

Nationwide, workers at retail chains such as Wal-Mart and Target threatened to go on strike or criticized their employers for the early hours, but there weren't any protests happening Thursday evening at the Wal-Mart in Waterford.

Jim Pepas and his friends and family arrived at Waterford Commons Thursday around 1 p.m. in his recreational vehicle.

He set up a grill, a coffee pot and some lawn chairs and instantly became the saving grace not only for his friends and family but also for a handful of people who had been in line at Best Buy since Wednesday afternoon.

"I'm not a big fan of standing in lines," Pepas, of Uncasville, said. "I won't do it at all."

But his family members queued up at retailers such as Sears and Target.

"I'll stay here and hold down the fort. I've got the heat on in there, it's got a bathroom, all the luxuries of life," he said of his RV.

One of the people who had availed themselves of Pepas' kindness was a Plainfield man who asked not to be identified and was the first in line at Best Buy. He had been waiting for 29 hours as of Thursday evening.

With the store opening at midnight and with six hours of waiting left to go, he was confident in his ability to stay awake. If he wanted to nap, however, his tent was just a few feet away.

Terrell Gray said he arrived at Best Buy at 11 p.m. Wednesday and that he had "skipped Thanksgiving completely."

"Well, there's always Christmas," he said. "This is the first time I've been in fourth place."

Trying to keep warm in three pairs of pants and two jackets, a hat and gloves, Gray said that the only time he came close to regretting his efforts to get the best deal on a laptop and two televisions, among other things, was in the wee hours of the morning.

"At 3 a.m., it was brick outside. It was super cold. I don't think I've ever been that cold in my entire life," he said.

But he stayed put. He had his own shopping agenda, and some of his friends had paid him to sit in the line and buy what they wanted. He said he felt safe because police had stopped by periodically throughout the evening to check on the people in line.

Around 6 p.m. Thursday, at Toys R Us, the parking lot was pitch black. Though the store's sign was unlit, about 20 people stood in line.

Naomi Rivera had secured her place at the head of the line before the sun went down. The New London resident said she arrived at 3 p.m., coffee in hand. Her sister would later deliver a plate full of Thanksgiving morsels for energy, just before the doors opened at 8 p.m.

"I'm getting a PlayStation 3 and a tablet," Rivera said.

Some shoppers, such as Kristine Staehle of East Lyme and Erica Askew of New London, chose to compare prices online and at other retailers before coming to Toys R Us.

"I do this every year. Last year, I saved $200 on toys for my 1-year-old and my 3-year-old," Askew said.

Groton resident Iris Campanile and her daughter, Andrea, arrived at 4 p.m. and were No. 3 and No. 4 in line. As two of the first 200 people in line, they were looking forward to their free surprise bags full of $30 worth of merchandise.

Camping out in front of a store for Black Friday was a first for Andrea, 14, who said that all she cared about was buying a toy for her younger sister.

"She's been wanting to do this forever," Iris Campanile, of Groton, said. "I've been doing Black Friday stuff since I was 13. It's more of a bonding experience for us than anything."


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