AUBURN — Temps were low, lines were long and Carolee Taylor was in it to win it.
First in line at Walmart for the 11th year in a row and there since 11 a.m., the Lisbon woman was armed with shopping lists for herself, her brother and her mother, an elderly man she cleans house for and friendly Canadian strangers who couldn’t take the cold.
In the Black Friday shopping spirit, she took the strangers’ list.
“They thought (Walmart) was opening at 6,” Taylor said, shivering, just before 11 p.m. “I have told over 100 people that they’re not opening until 12:01 a.m. I even told an employee where to get in — it must have been a new employee.”
By 11 p.m., crowds had gathered in front of Kohl’s, Game Stop, Kmart and JCPenney, where the front of that line basked in the warmth of a propane heater brought from home.
People were waiting for laptops, down comforters, vacuum cleaners and PlayStations.
According to a survey by RetailMeNot, it’s supposed to be a big year, with the average American spending $743 on holiday shopping from Black Friday to Cyber Monday, up from $505 last year.
“(It’s) big, big savings — I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t,” said Laurie Morneault of Oxford, who’d dressed in a snowmobile suit, sweatshirt and three hats to beat the 32-degree cold.
She’d brought her sister and niece, both Black Friday newbies, to wait with her outside Walmart and split her list.
“We’ll see how good they are,” she joked.
In front of Kohl’s, Shantal Fournier of Lewiston said it was a Black Friday tradition to head out with her aunt, Joline Vachon of Lisbon Falls. She’d already shopped Kohl’s sales online, but both agreed, there’s something about heading out in person that can’t be beat.
Bernard Carey of Auburn, fourth in line outside JCPenney, brought the propane heater from his ice shack to keep him and Jill Heikkinen warm.
The draw outside that store: A $500 one-per-store coupon given out at random among the first 100 shoppers.
“We all wish for the big one,” he said.
Darian McAtee of Lewiston claimed the front of the JCPenney line at 6:30 p.m., heading out for Black Friday for the first time. Her mom does it every year. She’d wrangled the lone cart in the parking lot.
“I put on Snapchat a picture of the cart in front of the store and titled it, ‘I’m competitive,'” McAtee said, laughing.
Seth Gibbs of Greene joined mom Susan for the first time in front of Kmart.
“You get some sweet deals, plus I wanted a free breakfast (his enticement for coming),” he said.
Taylor, who had been outside Walmart since 11 a.m., said her Black Friday tradition started after her family lost their belongings in a house fire and had to replace a lot of things. It’s continued since then with her children, nieces and nephews pitching in as “runners” to divide and conquer her lists.
“Because I’m doing it for other people, they’re seeing the Christmas spirit; that’s what I like about it,” she said. “I’m trying to teach them it’s good to do for others.”
Planning starts in July, when she reached out to Walmart to find out which doors, exactly, they’d be opening.
Her husband brought her Thanksgiving dinner, and really, she said, she’d rather wait than be home to cook and clean up.
At midnight, after a 13-hour wait, it was finally game time.
By 12:09 a.m., people were still streaming in the doors at Walmart and a man was walking out with the first purchase of the night: two toasters and a Crock-Pot.
Natasha Hussey, 13, left, huddles under a blanket to stay warm with her cousin, Kayla Hussey, 15, of Auburn while Stephanie Taylor, 19, of Monmouth sits on the lap of Katelyn Hair, 18, of Leeds as they talk to Carolee Taylor of Lisbon. The girls were all “runners” for Carolee Taylor, who is a veteran of Black Friday and was first in line at Walmart, arriving at 11 a.m. (Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal)
Black Friday shoppers at Kohl’s in Auburn bundled up as they waited in the front of the line Thursday night. Pat Conrad of Lewiston, left, was “roped into” joining her friend and co-worker to check out the Black Friday experience for the first time. (Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal)
Pat Conrad stays warm under a blanket Thursday night as she waits at Kohl’s in Auburn for the doors to open at midnight after being “roped into” coming by a friend and co-worker. It was her first Black Friday shopping experience and with two hours left to go, she was still not sure about the experience but planned to stick it out. (Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal)
Bernard Carey of Auburn, left, stands next to a propane heater he brought with him to stay warm while waiting in line at JCPenney in Auburn on Thursday night. Waiting in the front of the line with him are, from left: Jill Heikkinen of Auburn, Carry Gosselin of Lewiston and Darian McAtee, also from Lewiston. (Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal)
Jill Heikkinen of Auburn reads a book by flashlight and the glow of a propane heater brought by a friend to keep them warm while they waited outside JCPenney in Auburn for the store to open on Black Friday. (Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal)
Walmart employee Maryan Abdirahman of Lewiston blows a Black Friday noisemaker in front of the Walmart store in Auburn as thousands of customers waited in line. “It is really cold so I want to get everyone’s mood up,” Abdirahman said. (Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal)
From left, sisters Makayla Strout, 15, of Auburn, Katie Strout, 14, Mackenzie Strout, 12, and their cousin, Jaden Bourgoin, 11, of Sabattus, look at a map of the Auburn Walmart that was handed out showing where the store’s sale items were located as they waited for doors to open on Black Friday. (Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal)