Heather Johnson of Hartly is part of three generations in her family that have braved the madness of Black Friday for the last eight or nine years. They made their way from the Camden Walmart to Target, Movie Stop and then Kmart as they made their way north on U.S. Route 13 starting at 4 a.m. Friday.

Heather Johnson of Hartly is part of three generations in her family that have braved the madness of Black Friday for the last eight or nine years.

“It’s just a family tradition,” she said. “We always come out.”

Johnson, along with friend Merri Dooley of Hartly, checked out at the front end of Kmart off U.S. Route 13 in Dover as Johnson’s relatives patiently waited.

Sisters Grace Johnson (Heather’s grandmother), Verna Donovan of Newark and Emily Emerson of Bear and Sherri Spencer (the daughter of Grace and the aunt of Heather) were among the family members out shopping for grandchildren.

Olivia Spencer – Sherri’s daughter – lagged behind the rest of the group at Kmart because she had to go back to her car to retrieve her wallet before proceeding to the checkout line.

The women wore deer antlers atop their heads so they wouldn't lose each other in the fray, Olivia Spencer said.

“We can kind of look over the aisles and if we see ears we know were each other is,” she said. “That way we can get in and get out.”

“Thanksgiving night we all sit at the table an look at all the circulars and plan our route so we get to where we need to get to,” she added. “It’s fun. Sometimes it’s really kind of crazy.

They started out at 4 a.m. Friday at the Camden Walmart, proceeded to Movie Stop in Camden and then  Target and Kmart as they made their way north to Dover on U.S. Route 13.

It was hectic all around as Kmart was among Delaware stores bustling with more activity than usual throughout the state. The parking lot was near capacity at 8 a.m. Friday as were the parking lots at Target, T.J. Maxx and Toys R Us in North Dover Center and the Dover Mall along the Route 13 corridor. The Tanger Outlets in Rehoboth Beach - Bayside, Seaside and Midway - were all al at capacity around 6:30 a.m. Friday.

The Dover Kmart opened at 5 a.m. on Black Friday. Store Manager Al Stevens arrived at 3:30 a.m. to prepare. But he and his employees have been gearing up for this day for weeks.

“We opened up bigger than last year,” Stevens said. “We had more people in line, more cars in the parking lot. There was just a tremendous amount of excitement.”

Among the items flying off the shelves were MP3 players, Android tablets, netbooks and eReaders, Stevens said. Christmas trees were really a big deal as were domestics and soft goods – including bedspreads and towels.

Several shelves had to be restocked by 8 a.m. Friday, he said.

“It’s definitely a great indicator of how it’s going to go for the season. The first two hours were just phenomenal.”

The Dover Mall farther north on U.S. Route 13 was just as busy with streams of people walking the corridors of mom & pop shops between Boscov’s and Macy’s as well as Sears and J.C. Penney.

Black Friday is a big deal for retailers, who have operated in the red heretofore, Dover Mall Director of Marketing and Business Development Tricia Southard said. But it’s not the biggest day for retailers, she said.

“Historically, the nomenclature comes from the retailers going into the black – hitting profit for the year,” Southard said. “So, many people think it’s the largest shopping day of the year.

“Although there are a ton of people out today, the largest shopping day of the year is typically the Saturday before Christmas,” she said. “But what you find on Black Friday are amazing discounts.”

Among the crowd at Dover Mall for Black Friday were Ann Jones, her daughter Marsha Rickards and their friend Laura Burleson, all of Salisbury, Md.

This has been a tradition for Jones and Rickards for 18 years or so while Burleson joined them on the annul excursion around four years ago.

“It’s for the excitement of it,” Burleson said. “It’s just fun.”