For the Horsting sisters, an afternoon stroll in Colonial Williamsburg was a traditional part of their annual holiday return to their hometown after scattering to their current homes in Richmond and Texas.
“Because we grew up here, there’s a lot of memories here. We pass by places we remember, like ‘oh, we went up that fire escape when we weren’t supposed to. This is the church we went to. This is the tree we climbed,’” Julie Horsting said.
So, on Friday Horsting and her three sisters — Trudy, Laura and Rebekah Horsting — took to the streets of Colonial Williamsburg and Merchants Square with their mom to visit favorite shops and familiar haunts.
The tradition is important to the Bruton High School graduates because it brings them together to reflect on shared memories and make new ones.
The sisters were joined by May Hernandez, Laura’s girlfriend. It was Hernandez’s first visit to Williamsburg, and she said the town’s character lends itself to family gatherings.
“It’s cozy. It is a small town, so it gives people who grew up here a chance to reconnect, to bond. It gives you the chance to spend time with your family but also have a break from your routine,” Hernandez said.
They weren’t the only visitors to the Colonial Williamsburg area Friday. The area’s brick sidewalks were packed with guests who braved the chilly, overcast day to take in the sights of the colonial town and its Christmas decorations. Skaters skimmed across the ice at Liberty Ice Pavilion to the sound of holiday music.
Troels Vensild, a visitor from Denmark, explored the area with his family.
“We thought it would be an excellent idea to see the birthplace of the United States,” Vensild said.
In New Town, people flocked to the Regal movie theater. The line in front of the box office stretched for several yards to the water fountain out front at about noon Friday, rivaling lines one finds at the stores on Black Friday.
For some, the theater was an escape from studies.
Brendan Millis, a student at Thomas Nelson Community College, waited for a friend to join him for a showing of “Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald,” an adventure set in the Harry Potter universe.
For Jackie and Kevin McCoy, watching a movie -- in their case “Creed II” -- was a way to keep visiting out-of-town family members entertained after the last slices of turkey and pumpkin pie were served.
“It’s just a way to spend extra time with family,” Jackie McCoy said.
And while Friday was a time for friends and family, it was also a time for shopping. Residents turned out in droves to take advantage of Black Friday deals in the area’s centers of shopping.
Friday morning, Williamsburg Premium Outlets were buzzing with activity. By 10:30 a.m. the parking lot was full, with drivers following closely behind pedestrians returning to their cars.
Kate Spade was one of the busiest stores. The shop had a long line to get in, and a man standing guard at the door let two shoppers enter only once two shoppers left. Kate Spade looked more like a nightclub than a retail shop.
One of the women in line, Alexandra Roadley, was out shopping with her mother and grandmother. Roadley said she didn’t know what sale was going on at Kate Spade, she just got in line because she likes the brand.
“(I) just came out to see what deals are here,” Roadley said. “I usually work at one of the retail stores here, so I wanted to change it up this season and just go shopping.”
While some people sought out stores for shopping, others visited stores in search of a break.
“The men are hiding in here while their wives go into the other stores,” said saleswoman and bike mechanic Margie McCarthy, who was working at the Conte’s Bike Shop in New Town. “It’s been quiet but steady.”
She anticipated the safe haven would get a little busier once shoppers finished picking out their quick purchases and were ready to weigh buying something bigger, like a bike.
Merchant’s Square had its share of shoppers. Brittany Rolston, owner of the Shoe Attic, said in the last three years more people have been shopping at smaller businesses during Black Friday.
“It’s so nice to see people supporting the community because all the shops that are down here that are small are owned by people who live right here in Williamsburg,” Rolston said.
Jack Jacobs, 757-298-6007, firstname.lastname@example.org, @jajacobs_. Amelia Heymann, 757-298-5828, @HeymannAmelia.