Daniel Davis has never been the first customer in a Black Friday line.

Last year, the North Port resident didn’t wake up in time.

“I got left behind,” said Davis, Friday morning while in line at Best Buy. “I thought I was going shopping last year, but I was still asleep. When I woke up, everyone was gone.”

This year, a deeply discounted computer was enough motivation to get out of bed early — three hours early — and camp out in front of the Port Charlotte electronics store.

He was first in line.

“It stinks that employees have to work during the holidays, but for some of us, these sales are the only way we can afford things like computers,” Davis said.

Port Charlotte resident Kevin Mazzoni arrived shortly after Davis and set up his chair near the yellow caution tape. Employees put it there to prevent others from cutting the line.

“I’m here to buy a 65-inch television,” Mazzoni said. “It’s $300, you can’t beat it. I will be in and out of the store.”

Across the street at Target, veteran Thanksgiving Day shopper John Hayes of Port Charlotte had his orange blanket, Planters peanuts and Mountain Dew, while he waited at the front of the line at 5 a.m. He was there for a 65-inch Roku TV for $279. Last year, he arrived at the same spot at 3 a.m.

“There are a few things I’d love to tell Target they should do to help us shoppers, who get here hours and hours early,” he said. “I wish they would put up a sign saying what time they open. If I had a dollar for the amount of people who stop by and ask what time Target opens on Thanksgiving Day, I’d be rich. I made my own sign.

“I’d also like them to have a port-a-potty out here so people don’t have to go to the gas station,” he said. “Last year they had barricades the length of the building. Now they just have caution tape. The barricades are really effective in keeping the line in order.”

Last year, Port Charlotte High School student William Lawrence waited five and a half hours in line. This year, he was second in line at Target again, aiming for a gaming headset.

“I will Facetime with my family during Thanksgiving dinner,” Lawrence said. “I am the only one in my family with enough patience to wait all day in line, so I’m also getting stuff for my family. The sale is so good that I can once again afford to buy what I really want and don’t regret it.”

Madness begins

A few hours later, the pre-Black Friday madness began at the North Port Walmart. Hundreds of shoppers flooded the store filling their carts with big-screen TVs and lots of toys.

North Port resident Nick Trolli, a professional Santa, was wearing a bright red shirt and asking friends of his son, Nick Jr., to sign a Christmas card to send him while at boot camp in the U.S. Navy.

Trolli was spotted by 6-year-old Quentin Willis. His eyes grew big as he pointed.

His dad Justin said, “shhh, don’t tell anyone that you know who is here.”

“I’ve never gone shopping on Black Friday,” Justin Willis said. “My mom and sisters told me horror stories about people fighting in the aisles. I didn’t want to feed into the corporate greed. Then they put laptops on sale for $99 and they have lay-a-way. I caved. With five kids, one of them always needs a computer to do homework and Walmart made it extremely affordable.”

At the Port Charlotte Town Center mall, a handful of midnight shoppers ushered in Black Friday at Macy’s department store. They left with lots of bags when the store closed for a few hours at 2 a.m. Friday.

Lines for the 5 p.m. Thanksgiving opening at Kohl’s snaked to the nearby Home Depot, which was closed for Thanksgiving.

Extra discounts

While in line, some shoppers received emails for an additional $10 off their entire purchase — even after earning $15 in Kohl’s Cash back for every $50 spent. Check-out lines spanned to the back of the store near the toy section until 1 a.m. But by 3 a.m., the store was quiet, allowing employees to restock merchandise. Kohl’s would stay open through Friday.

Stores like Ollie’s, Michael’s, Joann fabrics and others in the mall, opened extra early for Black Friday doorbuster savings. Some had lackluster starts. However, later in the day, the long lines formed again, especially at Bealls, which was closed on Thanksgiving Day.

But among big-box stores, Bealls was the exception, not the rule, to opening on Thanksgiving. By Friday morning, many hard-core shoppers already had secured their Black Friday deals on Thanksgiving.

“JC Penney’s was pretty busy on Thanksgiving,” said veteran Black Friday shopper Jodee Armstrong of North Port.

“People were walking out of there with bags and bags of stuff. I asked if they had any more coupons and they said they were all gone within the first 20 minutes. The lines were long.”

As a veteran shopper, she remained determined and moved on.

“I was really surprised how much stuff Walmart had left from their Thanksgiving specials. We picked up this year’s hot toys, Elsa and Anna from ‘Frozen II.’”

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