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Dedicated Chick-fil-A fans vie for free food
Store officially opens Thursday
Fans of Chick-fil-A camp out in front of the new restaurant on Commonwealth Boulevard, which opens today. The tents were temporarily taken down and people moved inside Wednesday night as a storm passed through the area. People who camped out had a chance to win free food for a year. (Bulletin photo by Mike Wray)
What would you do for the opportunity to “Eat Mor Chikin”?
One hundred or more people — including children — camped overnight Wednesday at the new Chick-fil-A in Martinsville to receive free Chick-fil-A food for a year, according to Danny Wulff, franchise operator of the new restaurant on Liberty Street, and several participants.
Although the eatery officially opens today, on Wednesday about 250 people were in line to be among the first 100 customers and win the coupons for free food, Wulff said.
According to the “First 100 Giveaway” rules, if more than 100 people show up by 6 a.m. the day before a store opens, a raffle will be held to select the “First 100” winners and alternates. Those selected then must camp overnight to secure their spot.
Each of the 100 winning customers were to receive 52 coupons at 6 this morning, each good for a meal consisting of a Chick-fil-A chicken sandwich, medium Waffle Potato Fries and a medium drink at 6 this morning. The food is valued at a total of more than $29,000, the company has said.
The restaurant was to open immediately afterward.
Gusty winds made camping a challenge on Wednesday, and Wulff said some participants used ice buckets filled with water to help anchor their tents.
As winds picked up and rain fell, the tents were packed up and the crowd moved indoors at night — but just temporarily, until the storm passed, they said.
Spirits were high as a DJ provided music and some campers did — what else? — the chicken dance.
The restaurant chain has been “doing this for about 10 years” whenever a new one opens, Wulff said of the “First 100” giveaway. In all, the company has given out more than $18 million in free food at almost 700 grand openings since 2003, it stated in a recent release.
On Wednesday, campers came from Georgia, North Carolina and Ohio, according to Wulff and other participants.
Steve Molnar and his wife, Dana Molnar, came from Fayetteville, N.C. Like many of those present, this was not their first grand opening. Steve Molnar said they have attended about five openings, mainly in North Carolina.
Dana Molnar said the coupons they receive for the free food often are left as tips in restaurants or at other times “when you just want to give a little something.”
But the “First 100” openings are about more than food.
“It’s a social thing,” said Donna Webb, of Hillsborough, N.C., who has attended 12 or 13 such openings in states that include Tennessee, Virginia and others.
The Molnars invited Webb to share the front part of their canopy on Wednesday. Their tent took up the rest of the area under the canopy that was “tied to a wagon” filled with various items to weigh it down, and then tied to other nearby tents, Webb explained.
The three sat warm and dry inside while wind gusts blew the elaborate tent and canopy configuration. The way the tents are tied together, “if we go, the whole block is going,” Webb said, chuckling.
All were keenly aware that their biggest obstacle Wednesday would be “surviving the wind and rain,” Steve Molnar said.
Stacey Price of Reidsville, N.C., who attended the event with her friend Amy Cox, was among those who brought their children.
Her daughter, Olivia Price, 5, planned to stay until noon on Wednesday, but not overnight, she said.
“It’s good,” Olivia said of the event after taking a short break from jumping rope with other youngsters.
Stacey Price explained that she and Cox are co-workers.
“We took a day off work, and here we are,” Price said, and noted that she and Cox “hang out together all day.” They came to Martinsville “to have some quiet time” away from phones and computers, she added.
“I don’t know” whether that will happen or not with the threat of severe weather, Price said. “We’ll just hope for the best.”
For some, the allure of free food was worth the ordeal.
“I’m just a poor college student,” Daniel Jordan of Asheboro, N.C., said to explain why he attended the camporee. “It’s just for 24 hours, and it’s a lot of food,” the Liberty University student added.
Marcia Shin of Damascus was in Martinsville helping out a relative when she decided to attend the event.
“I only brought a chair,” she said, and was thankful that Tammy Curry and Kenny Jerrel, of Newport News, invited her to share their space.
Both have attended several other events in many other areas, according to Jerrel, who said he has traveled to Maryland to mark an opening.
“Everywhere is different,” Curry said.
If the weather really tanks, the two planned to lower their canopy and “just hang out ’til morning,” Curry said.
But Shin said, “I’m just gonna go home.”