Armed with gift cards and strapped with extra cash, residents flocked to market areas around Killeen and Harker Heights on Sunday and Monday to spend their much-welcomed Christmas money.
At the Target in Market Heights, the gift card racks were nearly wiped out; at Best Buy, shelves were picked clean of low-to-medium priced electronics. And in Killeen’s Walmart, a handful of residents waited in the service line to return well-meaning though poorly fitting articles of clothing.
“It’s been such an awful year,” said Mia Rodriguez, a Killeen resident. “We’ve had to manage our money pretty tight this year, but I’m glad I was able to go out and have some fun.”
Residents from around the area took the holidays as an opportunity to unwind and enjoy what remains of a year that, for many, has been desperate.
One Harker Heights resident, Henry Stevens, said that post-Christmas shopping was one of his favorite times of the year.
“It’s not like Black Friday, where everyone is climbing on top of each other,” he said. “It’s usually not too crowded and you can get a bunch of stuff for pretty cheap, stuff they couldn’t sell.”
Many of the residents surveyed wore face masks, indicating that with an adult vaccination rate of about 70% for Bell County, the holidays were still undercut by a wave of concern for the omicron variant.
Several residents said they elected to stay home for the holidays, out of concern for their family. Others, however, felt that the combination of vaccinations and social distancing has done its part.
One resident said that he had no problem traveling, and that traffic was even quicker than usual.
“We went to Dallas to visit family,” Miguel Martinez said. “There was almost no traffic.”
Other residents were more vocal about the subject.
“What’s the point of getting all these vaccinations, and wearing a face mask, and social distancing if we’re just going to be told ‘stay home?’” Margaret Earlmeyer said.
For now, residents appear content to catch the latest deals, anticipate the new year, and hope for a more forgiving 2022.