MURRAY — Dawn Robison was one of the first of almost 900 people through the doors Thursday night for the shopping rush at Toys R Us.
After waiting nearly five hours in line, the South Jordan woman completed her sprint through the store and paid for her cartload of gifts in under 40 minutes. The real prize of the evening was saving $150 on a drivable pink Power Wheels car, she said.
Meanwhile, Robison's husband was making a similar dash through Walmart in search of a 60-inch flat-screen TV. The couple had cleaned up Thanksgiving dinner early in order to get in line before 5 p.m., but Robison insists the chance at big savings was worth compromising her holiday.
"We're saving a ton of money," she said. "It's so worth it."
This was Robison's first year chasing down after-Thanksgiving deals, mainly because she didn't have to get up before dawn to shop. She took the mission seriously, renting a moving truck to help get her large purchases home.
A number of stores across Utah opened their doors Thursday night, cutting into the Thanksgiving holiday to give shoppers a jump on Black Friday deals in a phenomena some have nicknamed "Gray Thursday."
James Cook, Toys R Us store manager, spent the final moments before opening the doors rallying a smiling team of employees. The staff had carefully set up pathways through the store in order to accommodate traffic, and they passed out gift bags and bottled water as shoppers hurried in.
Cook complimented shoppers' considerate behavior throughout the night, calling the Thursday opening a success. He has taken part in three other Black Friday events.
"I think the line was fantastic. … It was a great group," he said. "I think Thursday nights seem busy to me."
Brittany Zetterquist of West Jordan and a group of her relatives have camped out at the same Target in Midvale hunting Black Friday deals each year for more than five years.
This is the first time Zetterquist has seen Target start its sales on Thanksgiving Day, and if Gray Thursday continues, she said this year will be her last.
"It takes away from Thanksgiving," Zetterquist said. "We were rushing through everything. … This is ridiculous."
Zetterquist and her group of 10 relatives traditionally spend a comfortable Thanksgiving Day together, then plan their shopping trip together Thursday evening over dessert.
This year, the group bundled against the cold and ate their pie off paper plates while they waited in line. They even brought along extra food to share with other shoppers.
Tammy Jorgensen of South Jordan, who was waiting in line with Zetterquist, said she almost abandoned the group because of the early sale. Jorgensen estimated there were fewer people in line for the sale than she has seen at midnight or 4 a.m. openings.
"It cuts into family time," said said. "Plus, it's not Black Friday yet. It's Thanksgiving. I'm totally against it being this early."
Tami McKee of Holladay was second in line, hoping to bag some electronics and children's toys. McKee said she cooked an early meal to share with her family, then shooed them out the door in order to be in line by 2:30 p.m. with her husband.
McKee said while she thinks it's unfortunate Black Friday has spilled over into Thanksgiving, she goes looking for tradition almost more than she does for savings. She couldn't recall how many years they have gone out shopping together.
"It's actually the only time that my husband and I get to do something and spend time and talk," she said. "We have some pretty funny memories."
Brian Griffeth of Midvale was also at Target on Thursday night, where he had been holding the No. 3 spot in line for his wife and a few of her friends since 3:30 p.m. He was after a flat-screen TV being advertised at $350.
Griffeth said he was struck by the irony of dedicating most of Thanksgiving to shopping rather than expressing thanks for what he has.
"I feel like we're supposed to be grateful for what we have, but yet there's a lot of fights that break out," he said. "People get greedy with the material items that we have instead of enjoying each other's company. … But at the same time, you can't pass up on the deals that they offer."