All morning, the aisles were jammed around Godshall's Poultry in the center of Reading Terminal Market.
"B77! 78! 79!" a worker shouted a little after 9 a.m., as patrons patiently waited for their numbers to be called.
The butcher, one of six in the market, had already gone through the A's -- all 99 -- in the first hour since the Center City landmark opened this morning.
"This is the busiest food shopping day of the year," said Paul Steinke, general manager. "It easily outranks any other day because Thanksgiving is the biggest food holiday of the year."
Hundreds were lined up at the 10 entrances this morning, and 20,000 people were expected to come through the doors -- a third more than on an average day.
"It's a day when the market really shines," he said.
At Beiler's, the Amish/Mennonite bakery in the Terminal's southwest corner, Aileen Oldt, No. 99, of National Park, held a pack of snickerdoodles while waiting for a coconut custard pie, a French apple pie, and a New York style cheesecake.
"I'm not getting pumpkin, because my daughter makes it," she said. And those aren't all the desserts her group of 17 will enjoy, she said. There will be "homemade rice pudding if I have time to make it." Plus, "some kind of chocolate something." Like cake or brownies.
Workers began boxing up pies at 2:30 this morning, said owner Alvin Beiler, sporting a red champion Phillies cap. He expected to sell a couple of thousand pies. Pumpkin's No. 1, followed by apple and sweet potato, said Beiler, who has owned the place since 1986.
Earlier at Godshall's, Bernadette Allison, B81, of West Philadelphia said she was waiting to order a turkey and a turkey ham for the ten family members coming to her house tomorrow.
She described a Carb-a-Rama: stuffing, sweet potatoes, mashing potatoes, potato salad, and macaroni and cheese. "Well, it's only one day," she said. "I don't eat a lot of carbs. Everybody has their picks."
There will be collard greens and string beans, too.
Sherrie Cahn, C48, of Washington Square West, has been getting turkeys here for 20 years, because they're "excellent," she said.
The 15-pounder she ordered Saturday was "probably killed yesterday. Not that I want to know," she said.
Dinner for eight -- "family and friends, misfits, whoever" -- will include sweet potatoes, stuffing, hors d'oevres, drinks, pumpkin soup and pumpkin apple cobbler.
E23 was Bob Keyser, a Haddonfield attorney. Quite the Terminal regular, he had already picked up heavy cream, Dijon mustard, and sausage and bread for the stuffing. He pointed to a cart filled with cloth bags bearing the names of of various Market merchants. His mission at Godshall's: "Three turkeys, plus one for the nanny," he said. Next: coffee and hors d'oeuvres.
As he waited, Jim Basile was picking up 10 fat turkeys. Eight would be offered to employees at the South Philadelphia office he manages for Stuart Dean, which restores and maintains metal, glass and other materials in buildings. At least two would go to feed the homeless at St. John's Hospice in the city.
Godshall's, the busiest of the butchers, judging from the crowd, should sell about 1,500 turkeys in the three days before Thanksgiving, said owner Steve Frankenfield. His brother, Jeryl, came all the way from New Hampshire to join the 16 or 17 workers, almost double the usual staff.
Business isn't off this year because of the nation's economic downturn, Steinke said.
"I'm hearing from our produce vendors that it's shaping up to be a record Thanksgiving," he said.
"In a time of economic worries, people do turn to cooking at home," he said. "... Food and family are a recourse in times of economic concern. We were saying the same thing after 9/11."
Contact staff writer Peter Mucha at 215-854-4342 or firstname.lastname@example.org.