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Early risers flock to shopping centers

By Staff
SHOPPING SPREE Lita Jo Horn, right, a McRae's employee, gives away free bags of Cracker Jack to shoppers Bea Ross, left, and Frances Brown, center. Ross, Brown and thousands of other headed to stores Friday the traditional start of the Christmas shopping season. Photo by Fredie Carmichael/The Meridian Star.
By Fredie Carmichael/The Meridian Star
Nov. 24, 2001
Sylvia Green began a new family tradition Friday with her daughter-in-law, Michelle: They woke before sunrise and rushed to McRae's for its 6 a.m. after-Thanksgiving sale.
The Greens weren't going to miss a chance at snagging Christmas bargains. And they hoped to find a coupon for a free diamond in Cracker Jack bags McRae's workers gave away.
The Greens were among thousands who crammed McRae's and other department stores in Meridian early Friday the busiest shopping day of the year. Some waited in line 30 minutes or more for stores to open before dawn.
At the new Wal-Mart SuperCenter, which is open 24 hours a day, shoppers made a mad dash to buy specially-discounted video cassette records and DVD players.
Tommy White, marketing director at Bonita Lakes Mall, said the shopping center had its largest crowd ever on Friday. He said a few store managers reported sales were up as much as 21 percent from a year ago.
At McRae's, workers were scheduled to open the doors to shoppers at 6 a.m.; doors actually opened 10 minutes earlier. Workers gave away 3,800 Cracker Jack bags.
But instead of the usual toy surprise, the bags contained coupons worth 15 percent to 25 percent off McRae's merchandise. Some coupons rewarded customers with a $1,000 shopping spree, $100 gift cards and even a $599 diamond ring.
Some shoppers who went to McRae's for the "Cracker Jack sale" hovered near garbage cans, found their coupon and then threw away the candy-coated popcorn and peanuts.
Others, though, ate the snack while they shopped.
Amber Moulds said she needed the energy, too.
Fredie Carmichael is a staff writer for The Meridian Star. Call him at 693-1551, ext. 3228, or e-mail him at