GENEVA – As she held a handful of books at Barnes and Noble in Geneva, South Elgin resident Cindy Castaneda said she set out on the biggest shopping day of the year to pick up some gifts for her nieces and nephews Friday.
She stopped at the book store around 11 a.m. and said she had been out shopping since about 8 a.m.
"I found some really good deals on children's books," she said. "I have to go here. I'm the 'book aunt' – I have a million nieces and nephews, and I always get them books, so I'm the designated 'book aunt.' "
Castaneda was among droves of shoppers who stopped by the Geneva Commons on Black Friday to snatch up deals, such as Barnes and Noble's buy one educational children's game or toy and get one 50 percent off all weekend.
Marzena Kaniuk of Geneva said she was shopping for her daughter at Barnes and Noble for gifts to open on St. Nicholas Day, which is Friday.
"That day, we focus on presents," said Kanuik, who is Polish. "Santa comes on Dec. 6 in the old European tradition."
Over at Gap, where Geneva resident Merrily McCann was shopping for a birthday gift Friday, everything in the store was 50 percent off. McCann said she typically doesn't venture out on Black Friday because she wants to avoid the crowds and often does a lot of shopping online.
"I'm already annoyed," she said about the crowds. "I plan to stop here and go."
At Express, where everything in the store was 50 percent off until noon, Kelsey McCormack of Geneva waited in line to try on some new work clothes. She said her Black Friday was more relaxing and didn't involve getting up really early like it has in past years.
"I'm doing the Commons, and then I'm done," she said. "I did the outlet mall [in Aurora] in the past, and it was way too crazy."
But not everyone who braved the Black Friday crowds shopped at a big box store. Amy Calandra of West Chicago said she actively avoids that scene. Instead, she shopped at The Little Traveler in Geneva and planned to stop by other stores along Third Street.
Plano resident Ann Hagemann said it's tradition for she and her family to shop at The Little Traveler each year. She said this was the 21st year she shopped there on Black Friday – a day that usually includes lunch and more downtown shopping in Geneva.
"It's so much more relaxing and enjoyable" than going to a big box store, she said.
Shoppers also were picking up some unique gifts for children and adults at American Science & Surplus in Geneva. Manager Megan Slaker said one of the most popular gift items so far this year includes the DaVinci Catapult, which is a catapult built in the style DaVinci designed.
"People get it for 40-year-olds," she said. "You get to build it, and then when you're done, you get to fling things."
Chemistry kits, solar kits, microscopes, vintage fallout shelter signs and what Slaker calls the "single uncle gifts" – whoopee cushions and potato guns – also are popular.
"We also have 'wicked grandparent gifts,' where they'll ask, 'Is this really loud?' We say yes and they go, 'Great, it's perfect,' " Slaker said.