Nary a parking space remained in downtown Lawrence early this morning as shoppers rose with the sun to catch the best bargains at the annual sidewalk sale. Clear skies and a light, cool wind provided perfect shopping weather.
Before the clock struck 7:30 a.m., tables and racks overflowing with merchandise lined the sidewalks on Massachusettes Street. By 8 a.m., crowds had formed and pedestrian traffic had slowed to a snail's pace.
Raegan Copp, 12, Ellen Rork, 13, and Lisa Flory, 13, said they look forward to the sidewalk sale every year. They squeezed a little spending money out of their parents and got to the sale by 7:30 a.m.
"My mom didn't want to come out so early," Ellen said.
"But this is when the best stuff's here," Lisa added.
PACKAGE-LADEN Donna Mochmaer said the annual sale usually marked the beginning of her fall shopping season. This was her fourth year at the sale and she said, "It's always fun."
Mochmaer gestured toward her daughter, Christi Mochmaer, a sophomore at Baldwin High School. "We've got to get her ready for school," she said. "She likes the sale real well."
As Christi gave her mother an exaggerated hug, Mochmaer said, "The only time your daughter really loves you is at the sidewalk sale."
More than 30 non-profit organizations sponsored food and drink booths for hungry shoppers.
James Tweed, a youth group member at the Reformed Presbyterian Church, said his group was selling coffee and sweet rolls to raise money for summer camp.
"We haven't sold too much so far, but it's still early," he said. "We think it'll get busy."
STORE EMPLOYEES working the sidewalk sale said the hectic atmosphere kept them on their toes.
"It's very frantic, very frantic," said Paul Whitely, systems consultant at Connecting Point, 813 Mass. "They come in little groups and they have 10 or 12 people interested in the same thing at the same time. And then they go on to something else.
"Some people come by to see what we've got and then they come back later to see if we still have it or if it's marked down."
Whitely expected the crowds to get even more frenzied as the day wore on.
"I think it'll pick up, especially as the sun gets up and we're on the shady side of the street," he said. "People seem to follow the shade."
FRED RUSTY, Lawrence resident, said he enjoyed the cool morning and the sale, but he had one gripe.
"I don't know why I'm the only one who noticed it, but Massachusetts should be closed to through traffic," he said. "They could put the food vendors out in the street. We brought the baby down in the stroller last year and she almost suffocated. You just can't get around."
Most stores downtown will be open until 8:30 tonight.
Although the sale is centered in downtown, local businesses in outlying shopping areas are taking advantage of the shopping spirit today to hold their own sidewalk sales.