SANDY — Ask almost anyone who gets up in the wee hours of the morning to stand outside in the November chill just to be among the first to start the holiday shopping season why they do it, and one of the more common responses is, "It's the experience!"

In other words, there is a feeling that some folks get from shopping on "Black Friday" that cannot be matched at any other time of year.

"It's an adrenaline rush! It's just so exciting," Jennifer Payne of Tooele said. She drove to the Sandy Shopko to meet with her sister-in-law, Julie Newman, when the doors opened at 5 a.m.

"Black Friday is the only day I like shopping that much," Payne said.

Newman, who arrived at 2:30 a.m., was the first person in line. And she came prepared with her "below zero" sleeping bag and a comfy lawn chair.

"I just tucked my body into my sleeping bag, plopped down in my chair, and I was good to go," she said with a wide grin.

Like so many other early-morning shoppers, this has become a tradition. Payne, Newman and other family members have been opening up stores together for about five years.

While some might find the idea of getting up ultra-early a bit of a hardship, others have reached the conclusion that the best way to cope is just to forgo sleeping altogether.

"It's just for the fun of it, to be stupid, I guess," Ulla Hoge of Sandy joked. She and her daughter, Kirstina, began their holiday-shopping odyssey at South Towne Center before coming to Shopko.

With the economy still struggling, many retailers have tried various strategies in an effort to lure more shoppers. The Gateway shopping area in downtown Salt Lake City, Radio Shack and Shopko had some stores open on Thanksgiving Day.

Besides the typical major Black Friday sales, places like South Towne Center in Sandy staged an event beginning at midnight that included live entertainment and giveaways.

According to Shopko regional vice president Alice Mainor, consumers can expect to see plenty of added value to their spending dollar this holiday season.

She told the Deseret News that the discount retailer — like many competitors — has nearly doubled the number of "door busters" this year. Door busters are the deeply discounted sale items that drive most people to stores during Black Friday shopping.

"We really are screaming value to get people to get up early and come in our way," she said. That strategy is being employed across the retail landscape, Mainor said.

"That's the beauty of it for the consumer," she said. "Everybody is going to be aggressive with pricing this year."

Those words would be music to the ears of shoppers like Hoge, who was searching for a portable GPS device. She wound up buying three.

Channa Vyfvynkel and her mom, Lucille, (both dressed in Santa hats) were also focused and organized about their pre-dawn shopping — employing a written list of stores, times to be at those stores and the items to be purchased.

"We get the ads … and just sit over Thanksgiving and go through them," she said. "I've always kind of been (organized)."

While the majority of the shoppers were women, a number of men were also among the bleary-eyed souls pushing carts through the store in search of bargains.

Jared Stoker said he and his wife, Erin, have made the early-morning shopping trek for a few years now.

"I don't want to say I dislike it, but I do it more for her — to help her out," he said. "My kids are older, so we just leave the kids with my parents and come out here and have fun."

And that was the attitude that many shoppers expressed. The idea of spending time with family, even in the "hustle and bustle" of a department store holiday sale, was well worth the time and effort.

"We really didn't need anything," Payne said. "We just came for fun."

e-mail: jlee@desnews.com