Shoppers hit River Crossing

Hundreds of shoppers didn't seem to mind sporadic sprinkles and chilly, gusty winds at the grand opening today of The Shoppes at River Crossing.

The shopping center — nearly four years in the making — officially opened with a ribbon cutting by local governmental officials and the developers.

"It's just perfect for us," said 80-year-old Marie Jones with her husband, Herb Jones, who live in north Macon near the center. "We came just to see this nice place."

Marie Jones said she liked the design of the center, and she planned to park once and walk to the shops instead of driving around the sprawling center. "Everybody needs to walk," she said.

Jones discovered a $20 gift certificate in a shopping bag handed out by the center's personnel. The shopping bags were for the first 1,000 shoppers to the center. One hundred bags contain $20 gift certificates, and one had a $1,000 certificate. About 350 bags were handed out within the first hour to people waiting in line before the ribbon-cutting.

The grand prize was won in less than 30 minutes by Lisa Herndon, who lives on Wesleyan Drive in Macon.

"I had no idea they were giving away something like this," said Herndon, while holding her son, Jackson Carter, 4. "I love (River Crossing). I have been looking forward to it opening."

The cloudy skies and blustery winds caused the planned skydiving event to cancel this morning, but other entertainment, such magic shows, face painting, clowns and jugglers strolled throughout the center.

From a quick check of the license plates in the crowded parking lots, a lot of shoppers were willing to drive in from all around Georgia to attend the opening. Other than a number of vehicles from Bibb County, other counties represented included: Fulton, Gwinnett, Houston, Oconee, Laurens, Monroe, Baldwin, Twiggs, Crawford, Cobb, Dekalb, Tift, Muscogee, Clayton, Heard, Coweta, Putnam, Jones and Washington.

A number of out of state tags also were in the lots included Virginia, Kentucky, North and South Carolina, Florida, Connecticut and Alabama.

So far, 44 stores have been announced for the 750,000-square-foot shopping center although all retailers are not open yet. Some stores didn't receive inventory in time or hadn't finished building their interior space for the grand opening. Some stores, including Belk department store, are under construction and are expected to open this fall.

The center was developed by Montgomery, Ala.-based Jim Wilson & Associates and Chicago-based General Growth.