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Shopping and Santa: Season brings annual Christmas traditions
3. Black Friday pic
Austin Stroup, along with his sisters Gabriella Stroup, center, and Adrianna Hernandez, visit with Santa over the Thanksgiving and Black Friday shopping weekend. - photo by Michele Hester Dawson County News

Every year Meredith Stroup has the opportunity to let her children see Santa when he makes a stop at her husband's company Christmas party.

But instead, she drives from Suwanee to Dawsonville for visits with Santa at North Georgia Premium Outlets.

"I think he's just awesome. That's why we come here," she said. "I love that he takes so much time with kids and doesn't rush them through."

Dressing up for pictures with Santa is as much a holiday tradition for the Stroups as decorating the Christmas tree or searching for deals during the annual after-Thanksgiving Black Friday shopping events.

"We were out shopping all day Friday," she said.

Shoppers were out early this season, hoping to be among the first ones in the stores for the Black Friday sales.

A number of the outlet shops opened at 6 p.m. on Thanksgiving and had lines that wrapped along the sidewalks throughout the overnight hours.

By 9 p.m., the outlets were at full capacity and stayed that way until midnight.

Then, the crowds were back bright and early Friday morning when shoppers were seen running across Ga. 400 after they couldn't find parking spaces at the mall.

"It was really a fun weekend," said Shelley Korenbrot, the mall's marketing manager. "The extended hours gave shoppers the opportunity to choose when they wanted to shop."

According to a survey by the National Retail Federation, more than 151 million people said they shopped either in stores or online over the holiday weekend.