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Last-Minute Shopping Rush Is On

December 24, 1998

BLOOMINGTON, Minn. (AP) _ Kate Edmonson carried a stuffed bear and a sweat shirt as she shopped at the Mall of America on Thursday. Work had kept her from filling her gift list earlier.

``It just kind of creeps up on me,″ the Apple Valley woman said, holding the gifts for a friend’s mother and her boyfriend.

Cindy Medina purposely left a couple of items off her list so she could make her annual trek to the suburban Minneapolis mall on Christmas Eve. She reluctantly shared a secret _ the nation’s largest shopping and entertainment complex is surprisingly sane on the last shopping day before the holiday.

``We don’t want to tell anybody about this ... because then everybody would come,″ said Medina, who was shopping with her two children.

``It alleviates the stress because you know you can find it here,″ she said. She wouldn’t divulge her gift list.

Roger Mayer of Apple Valley held the shopping bag for his wife as she finished buying a few stocking stuffers, including coffee beans.

``I used to work at Dayton’s (department store) downtown,″ said Mayer, who planned to spend about two hours at the mall. ``Christmas Eve day is always much slower. People ... come in and get what they want and get out.″

Another type of last-minute shopper formed one of the few lines at the mall: children waiting to put in their gift requests with the Big Guy in Red.

Kris Merrifield of Bloomington waited with her three children, adopted from Russia over the past two years.

Daria, 7, Natalia, 6, and Alexander, 8, didn’t know what Christmas was all about last year, their mother said.

``This year, they definitely know. Each day, the energy level has gone a little higher,″ she said as the three children skipped around, hugged the big, fuzzy bear standing guard over the line and played checkers at a nearby display table.

Daria said the only thing she asked for this year was a puppy and worried that her request might be getting to Santa too late.

Merrifield, who already counts a 95-pound dog as part of the household, agreed there probably wouldn’t be a puppy under the tree.

``Our presents are wrapped and under the tree. Our big family present this year was a computer; it’s already set up,″ she said.

Sisters Tracy Tuten, 10, and Amber Williamson, 16, of Jacksonville, Fla., were spending Christmas in the Twin Cities this year at a hotel. Their father is a truck driver, so the family came north for the holiday. They planned to buy a tree for their room Thursday night, and shopping at the mall was a special treat.

``We saved our money up so we could come to the Mall of America. I love it. I wish we had one in Florida,″ Amber said.

The girls, who were loaded down with shopping bags, said they bought mostly clothes for themselves.

At least one shopper made his purchase in advance, but it was waiting to be picked up at King Jewelers: a $14,000, 18-karat gold ring with a natural alexandrite and two diamonds. ``I’m holding it for one of our really good customers as a gift for his wife,″ owner Ben King said.

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