TILDEN TWP., Pa. – As the holiday shopping season officially kicks off the day after Thanksgiving, experts say this could be the busiest Black Friday ever.

Cabela's in Tilden Township, Berks County, is the largest store in the brand's retail chain. It opened its doors 5 a.m. Friday. 

The line stretching outside the store started forming around 4 a.m. with employees passing out placeholders for those wanting a specific item.

Mark Lazovi and Brittany Wetzel arrived at 4:30 a.m. 

"Somebody was here at 1:30 this morning," Lazovi said. "I wanted to get some things. I'm a hunter." 

Coming early for Black Friday has been a tradition at Cabela's. General Manager Ed Bartolotta says the tradition has changed. He remembers temporary campsites set days in advance. Such was not the case this year, as deals have already been in place, easing the purchase pressure.

"That was a lot of fun but also chaotic," Bartolotta said. "Spreading things out over the week have made things a lot easier for all of us." 

He said the deals this year are spread out over the course of the weekend and earlier in the month, which is a good thing because it prevents a mad rush on a single day. The store's staff is still about 50 workers short, he said.

In-person shopping may be more crucial than ever this year, as supply chain issues threaten many online items from arriving in time.

The National Retail Federation says from Thanksgiving to Cyber Monday, it expects 158 million people to be out shopping, but that's still down from 165 million in 2019. Clothing, gift cards and toys are among the hottest gifts. The average person is expected to spend $977 this holiday season.

Dick and Nina Helms of Quakertown said they saved $400 this Black Friday, as they stocked up for the Keystone Elk County Alliance.

"We came shopping now and hold it till March for our annual banquet. Last year we raised $39,000 for the Elk herd here in Pennsylvania."

Cabela's says Black Friday is now more symbolic but it is still the busiest day of the year.

Watch Black Friday updates on site from Cabela's from WFMZ's Bo Koltnow.

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