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Willmar gets a brief taste of iPad fever

Halle Mortensen, 6, of Willmar, looks on Friday at Best Buy in Willmar as her brother, Noah Wright, 10, shows her how to play "Slice It," a game on the new iPad 2 tablet. Apple Inc.'s update of the tablet computer it first released 11 months ago officially went on sale at 5 p.m. Best Buy had 10 tablets for purchase. Tribune photo by Gary Miller

A cluster of white balloons in the back of Best Buy in Willmar was all customers unaware of the significance of 5 p.m. Friday might notice as they entered the store.

Unlike Apple Stores in major cities where crowds gathered, a half-dozen people sat on chairs in the store's rear aisle by the balloons.

They were waiting for the official release of the iPad 2, Apple Inc.'s update of the tablet computer it first released 11 months ago.

Customers from Dawson and Montevideo joined the tech-enthralled from Willmar as they waited for tickets to purchase the newer, thinner, lighter, faster device.

But no matter the size of the city or the number of people waiting in line, stores had to wait, Apple decreed, until 5 p.m. release the iPads.

Sales associate Casey Wangsness brought the tickets out at about 4:45 p.m.

Ten iPads were available, Wangsness announced, five with 16 gigabytes of memory and five with 32 gigabytes.

People have been calling and stopping in at Best Buy the past few days, said Travis Reed, the stores customer solutions manager.

"There's definitely anticipation of the release," Reed said.

As 5 p.m. approached, the customers with tickets followed the balloons to the front of the store where sales associates waited at cash registers with the iPads.

Amber Mortensen's children, Halle Mortensen, 6, and Noah Wright, 10, held back.

They noticed a sales associate placing an iPad on the display that had been empty until then.

As Halle held the device, Noah convinced her to play his favorite song on it, "Yellow Submarine."

As the Beatles song played, Noah showed his sister how to play one of the tablet computer's games, "Slice It."

There were some moments of disagreement, but the pair shared.

But there'd be plenty of time for them to share their own iPad that night, wouldn't there?

"Maybe," their mother said, "If I'm through playing with it."

Gary Miller

Born and attended public schools in Willmar, Minn. Served 20 years in U.S. Navy as a photojournalist. Worked at West Central Tribune since retiring from the Navy in 1994.

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