The gate rises and the Black Friday shoppers rush in.

The gate rises and Black Friday shoppers rush in.

Outdoor retailer REI is ignoring Black Friday and giving its 12,000 employees an extra day off with pay.

The company launched a Social Media campaign called “#OptOutside” to encourage people to stay away from the Black Friday madness and enjoy the great outdoors or other pursuits that have nothing to do with crass commercialism.

State parks in several states joined the campaign and are offering free admission and other benefits.  REI spokesmen say Black Friday is the centerpiece of what has become a commercial nightmare that obscures the meaning and purpose of holidays like Thanksgiving and Christmas.

REI has 143 stores around the country, including a huge flagship operation in Denver.  All are closed today for Thanksgiving and all will remain closed on Friday.

“It’s really, really exciting to see,” Ben Steele, REI’s chief creative officer, told USA Today. “In many ways, it’s a way to extend all of the goodness of Thursday into Friday.”

Amy and I shopped at the REI store in Baileys Crossroads while we lived in Northern Virginia for 23 years.  While there are no outlets in Southwestern Virginia there are stores in Greensboro and other North Carolina.

REI executives criticize other stores for pushing the envelope for Black Friday by opening on Thanksgiving Day.  Many area retailers, including Macy’s at Valley View Mall in Roanoke, open at or around 6 p.m. Thanksgiving Day and remain open until midnight.

On Black Friday, many stores open at 6 a.m.  Parking lots are often full through the night before.

We stopped shopping on Black Friday several years ago.  I venture into the madness only if I have an assignment to photograph the mayhem.  Thankfully, this year I do not.  Friday looks like a good day for a ride on the Harley.

Economists say some retailers depend on Black Friday and a good Christmas season to survive.  The Christmas shopping period is often followed by stores announcing closures.

Have fun, if one can call it that, on Black Friday.  It would be nice to think that what REI did this year will spread to future Thanksgiving and the day after but in a “money talks” society that is an impossible dream.

But we can still dream and it doesn’t cost a cent.