Less than 24 hours after tanking up on turkey and pumpkin pie, many Erath County residents rose extra early Black Friday morning in search of savings, and the perfect gift for everyone on their Christmas list. Shoppers were greeted with doorbusters and stuffed their carts with everything from clothes and shoes to HDTVs, Wiis, and all the latest releases on Blu-ray and DVD.

First to open locally were JCPenney and Goody’s, which offered 50 to 75-percent savings, buy one get one free offers, and a breathable atmosphere. As one local shopper put it, the experience was much more enjoyable for those who flocked to retailers with a shopping strategy.

Stephenville resident Candiss Thompson was at JCPenney when it opened and was ready to check out in just 30 minutes.

“There was a line of people running in when the store opened at 4 a.m. They came in with their lists ready,” Thompson said. “I have been coming in all week. I knew exactly what I wanted and where it was. I came in and got it and now I am ready to leave.”

Top on Thompson’s list was her daughter-in-law and she knew she would save tremendously on her gift of choice by being first in line.

“I have a wonderful daughter-in-law. I knew exactly what she wanted,” Thompson said. “This Christmas, I wanted to make her happy, so I decided to get up early to take advantage of the savings.”

Not shy about the savings, Thompson purchased four items and lined her pocket with more than $1,200 in savings. While her gift bag was stuffed with large ticket items, Thompson said the savings were good and she was headed to do more shopping.

Thompson said in past years she would make the trek to Fort Worth or Dallas but has learned to save herself time and gas money by shopping closer to home.

Audrey Carr, assistant manager at Goody’s, said the store had been buzzing since it opened. She said employees clocked in at 3 a.m., and 45 minutes later people were waiting to get in. Sharing their holiday spirit, she opted to open the doors 15 minutes early.

According to Carr, in a little less than three hours, the store had racked up $11,000 in sales. She said the amount more than doubled total sales on any given day.

Carr said there is no doubt this year’s shoppers, drowning in news of a troubled economy, rose extra early to take advantage of Goody’s doorbuster deals and other savings opportunities.

“We have many ways to save,” Carr said. “A lot of people are taking advantage of the doorbusters - those deals offer 60 to 70-percent savings off the original price. We also have a coupon good for $10 on purchases of $20 or more and most of our regular sale items are at least 50-percent off.”

Carr said the volume of shoppers is comparable to last year and also said she believed the economy has changed shoppers’ habits.

“The number of shoppers are about the same, but last year there were not as many early birds,” Carr said. “This year, we offered more than 100 doorbusters and everyone wants to save anything they can in a troubled economy.”

One couple, who made the rounds that included JCPenney and Wal-Mart on their itinerary, said they put themselves through the Black Friday frenzy to cash in on savings for gifts for their children.

Loaded up with kids’ clothes, Stephenville resident Ali Moncrief said she was in search of good deals, while Sean Sears said he only came along to distribute the money and carry the bags.

“The savings this time of year make waking up early worth it,” Moncrief said.

In the wee hours of the morning, Wal-Mart shoppers began prowling the aisles mapping out a strategy that would leave their shopping lists complete and their bank accounts still in the black. Associates cut the plastic on the store’s early bird specials at 5 a.m. and a store packed to capacity with shoppers went wild for the season’s hottest buys on toys and electronics.

Again, those with a game plan got the goods.

One shopper walked by loaded down with Xbox games - she had managed to get the games of choice and also the best deals. As she made a call on her cell phone, her strategy was revealed.

“This is team Xbox,” the young shopper said.

It was a well-organized group, made up of teams - one team for video games, and others for electronics, clothing, small appliances, and jewelry. Her face showed the delight of a mission accomplished, while others were lost in a tumultuous sea of savage shoppers, ready to pounce on their neighbors to save a bundle and fill their sleighs.