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Metro malls buzz with activity as shoppers dash to buy last-minute gifts

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OVERLAND PARK, Kan. -- Thousands of people across the metro spent Friday doing last-minute shopping as the clock ticks down to Christmas.

Scoring a parking spot at Oak Park Mall felt like winning the lottery. The mall was packed with people as stores offered extended hours, staying open until 11 p.m.

“It’s crazy!” said Maryssa Lutz, chuckling about the size of the crowds. “I will not come back on a day before Christmas, ever!”

Kasey Vena, marketing director for Oak Park Mall, said it’s a special time of year for shoppers and staff alike, as stores are buzzing with great deals and holiday cheer.

“A lot of people like to wait to the last minute,” Vena said. “Maybe that’s their tradition or maybe they’ve just forgotten something that they need to go out and get.”

Nearly every store offered some kind of discount, with major brands like Express and Banana Republic boasting up to 50 percent off all merchandise.

“If you look at the website,” Vena said, “you can get a directory map, you can know where you want to park, you can look and see what stores have deals. Having a plan will make it that much more manageable for you.”

For many, the shopping plan was simple.

“Just out Christmas shopping,” Lutz said of taking her 5-year-old sister into the Disney store. “Whatever she wants, we’re getting it. She’s the only sister I got, so I’m going to enjoy it while I can.”

For others, it was a bit tiring.

“[I’m] chilling!” said dad Darryl Green when Fox 4 found him lounging in a chair. “Taking it easy! My feet hurt walking around the big ole mall!”

And for the Sawyer family, it was all in good fun as they dressed like elves and in Christmas-themed sweaters.

“Well I look fantastic!” said Marcus Sawyer. “As you can see, right now I am [dressed like] a chimney!”

Added his sister, Erin Sawyer, “A lot of people really like the outfits! They’re like, ‘You guys look so cute! I just love what you’re doing here!’”

“We wore these outfits as a strategic way,” laughed DeVyn Sawyer, “so that when people walk by, they’re too distracted by our outfits and won’t notice we’re taking all the good stuff!”

As people filled their shopping bags and got into the Christmas spirit, dozens of children marked one more thing off their wish list…

“Ho! Ho! Ho! Merry Christmas!” said one of Santa’s helpers, who was busy greeting children for hours.

“Come on in here and talk to me about what you want for Christmas!” he said.

If you still have items on your gift list, there is still time Saturday. Oak Park Mall will open on Christmas Eve at 8 a.m. and close at 6 p.m.