Some Thanksgiving traditions die hard.
For Christine Stieve of Reedsburg, tradition means that Black Friday shopping starts at 6 a.m. on Friday, regardless of when retailers start opening their doors.
Stieve, 42, has been going shopping the day after Thanksgiving for more than 30 years as part of a family tradition. So she and her mother, Lou Ann Roloff of La Valle, were part of a three-generation family contingent that arrived at West Towne Mall promptly at 6 a.m. Friday.
"We didn't start (Thursday) night," Stieve said after catching a little late-morning catnap on a bench outside the JC Penney entrance. "I don't like it. I wish all the sales didn't start till Friday.
"We got here at 6 and a lot of things were gone that we saw in the ads. But that's OK; we just come for fun. If we don't get any deals, we still have a good time."
That was a frequently related theme among a number of midday Friday shoppers who were unmoved by hot deals to shift their Black Friday routine to match the ever-earlier store openings.
So while stores around Madison attracted long lines for openings as early as 8 p.m., some people saw that as a good excuse to delay their arrival a little.
Paul Cielak, 44, Brookfield, and his relatives from Dodgeville made the trek a little later than usual, arriving at West Towne at 7 a.m.
"Usually we get up at 3 and get here by 4," said Cielak, the only male in a group of 11 shoppers in the family. "But since all the stores started opening earlier, we figured that most of the rush would come (Thursday) night or early in the morning so we'd bypass the rush and get a few more hours of sleep and then come and still get some pretty good deals.
"We don't need to get the $38 flat-screen TV, so we don't have to camp out or anything. I think it's a little less crowded now than it's been in the past. It's a little more sane."
The VerKuilen family of Evansville — six strong this year with the addition of 8-month old Tessa — arrived as usual at 5 a.m. But they weren't tempted to start any earlier.
"I don't like that," said Kitty VerKuilen, taking a shopping break with her sons John and Adam, daughter-in-law Pam and husband Steve. "I think it wrecks the family tradition of Thanksgiving. I feel bad for the clerks that have to work. And I think it's nice to have a good night's sleep before you hit the mall."
Despite the resistance from some shoppers, the trend toward earlier starting times is not likely to end.
West Towne general manager Paul Matyas said more than 100 stores at the mall were open by midnight, with some, like Victoria's Secret, attracting long lines in advance. Sears was the earliest, opening at 8 p.m., while JC Penney was the biggest holdout to tradition, opening at 6 a.m. Friday.
"We started opening at 5 a.m. a few years ago," Matyas said, "and from my perspective I'm amazed at how much longer we're now open and how much more popular it continues to get.
"With the Internet becoming a growing factor every year, there's that feeling from the bricks part of the equation that the hours need to be longer rather than shorter."
Matyas noted that the midnight crowd skewed younger than the normal mix of shoppers.
"There's a difference between the people that are willing to wait in line for an hour or two to get that special price, compared to the average customer who's doing more general shopping and maybe is here because of the excitement of being around crowds," Matyas said. "That's our advantage over the Internet, and always will be."
Christine Stieve acknowledges that trend toward earlier and earlier shopping. But she's unmoved.
"We'll start at 6 o'clock on Friday, no matter what," she said. "We have other Thanksgiving traditions we have to take care of."