From my experience the top brands offer similar quality and since it's a standard, video quality is almost exactly the same. That changes as you get into the 3ccd cameras.
So other brands to look at: Canon, JVC, Panasonic
If you're a Costco member they have some pretty good deals. Otherwise there are reputable shops online such as B&H Photo and others. Otherwise just wait for a sale at someplace like Best Buy or Circuit City. At least you have plenty of options since your budget is $1000. It's a lot more limited when people can only afford $300 or $400.
Remember to include a camera case, spare high capacity battery, blank tapes and maybe a tripod. For shooting inside a wide angle lens is a good idea, the telephoto ones are generally useless.