Holiday shoppers off to early start

In search of deals on their first helping of holiday gifts, hundreds of Sonoma County shoppers left the dinner table Thursday night to hit local stores.

They were the first wave of the projected 147 million people expected to crowd retailers nationwide through the weekend.

Many decided to take advantage of even earlier opening hours this Thanksgiving, allowing them to beat the morning rush today when stores open for Black Friday sales.

"It actually makes it more convenient just because I'm in earlier and out earlier," said Monte Rio resident Heather Gatica, 31, who was among dozens of shoppers lined up outside the Target in Santa Rosa Marketplace before the store opened at 9 p.m.

Across the city, waiting shoppers equipped themselves with chairs, blankets, tents and books. They said the promise of deep discounts on electronics, appliances and gifts for loved ones drove them queue up in the cold, only moments removed from the warmth of a holiday meal.

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