At the Walmart in Yuba City, they gathered Thanksgiving night around goods wrapped in black plastic in aisles marked by yellow caution tape.
Maps listed shopping events that began at 8 p.m. when customers could buy discounted hand mixers, vacuums, computer equipment and video games — “Zombie Hunter” among them.
Two miles away at the Target on Butte House Road, shoppers waited in a line that reached around the corner of the store for the 9 p.m. opening.
At the start of the day, hundreds were in line for the doors to open at the Kmart on Gray Avenue — and an employee warned them minutes before the 6 a.m. opening to be safe shoppers.
“If you guys rush the door,” he said, “we’ve got to lock it.”
But the line that reached to the Round Table Pizza down the block moved without incident as Black Friday, the traditional day-after-Thanksgiving start to holiday shopping, moved up 24 hours to mixed reviews Thursday.
“This is ridiculous,” said Smartsville resident Cheryl Alexander, 38.
Kelsey Myers, 19, a student at Butte College and in the same line at Target as Alexander, agreed.
“I don’t like it,” Myers said.
But Marysville resident Jenny Warner, 30, waiting with her 10- and 12-year-old daughters, said the Thursday start spares the 3 a.m. start Friday for shopping that she once undertook.
“It’s actually better,” Warner said.
Sirina Ramirez, a 21-year-old Yuba City resident who plans on enlisting in the Air Force next June, was first in line at Target after arriving at 3:55 p.m. Thursday. That followed her earlier stay at Kmart.
“I waited in line for 2 1⁄2 hours,” she said. “And I got nothing.”
But she said attractions, including a 32-inch TV for $300 less than it would usually cost, brought her to Target.
“It’s worth the wait,” said Ramirez.
Debra Higgs, 53, of Yuba City, dropped off her son at Sears before heading to Target, where she wanted to buy a little girl’s kitchen set for her niece. The $49 item usually lists for $129 — but Higgs wasn’t sure it would be hers.
“It depends on how many other people want it,” she said.
Yuba City resident Bill Daugherty, 69, left Kmart minutes after 6 a.m. Thursday with an air hockey game for $39 after checking out the store Wednesday. He wasn’t sure what he would encounter early Thanksgiving morning.
Tanya Hansen of Linda thought about heading for bargains at the Factory 2-U store after leaving the nearby Kmart.
“Maybe I’ll go there,” she said, “and get lucky.”
Plumas Lake resident Deb Walters, 41, said at Target that almost everything is better than the holiday shopping trip she made last year to Roseville.
“Don’t ever go to the Galleria on Black Friday,” Walters said. “Nothing’s on sale.”
Ryan McCarthy is a reporter for the Marysville Appeal-Democrat.