Cordele Dispatch, Cordele, GA

Local news

January 9, 2013

Chick-fil-A patrons camp out

Cordele — The wait is finally over.. Chick-fil-A will be celebrating its first grand opening of 2013 in Cordele Thursday, an event that has been highly anticipated in the community.

The parking lot of the local chain began filling up before the roosters crowed this morning as patrons participated in the “First 100 celebration.”

According to Cindy Chapman of Chick-fil-A communications the “First 100 Celebration” quickly became a hallmark of each grand opening when the chain held the event for the first time in Arizona in 2003.  

More than 18 hours before the restaurant opened, the first person arrived and asked where to get in line. Since then, the chain has given away more than $18.1 million in free food at more than 680 grand openings.

The parking lot parties attract Chick-fil-A’s loyal customers who come from around the block and across the country equipped with couches, TVs, computers, tents and other gear. Even extreme weather conditions do not dampen the enthusiasm of the participants who often arrive more than 24 hours in advance.

Matt Brannon, along with Emma Posey and her siblings Jessie, Helen and J.J., all of Cordele, were among some of the younger campers, on site with their families Wednesday morning. The group stood out by the road holding a sign encouraging passing motorists to “HONK For Chick-fil-A.”

“We have been here since about 5:30 this morning,” said Posey. “Some people have been here even longer. We were able to take the day off from home school to be here and are excited about Chick-fil-A opening.”

Melissa Posey, the siblings’ mother said she was among the alternate names drawn with no guarantee of one of the prizes but “we’re having a lot of fun.

“Each person who is participating can have up to five guests with them,” she said. “Everyone has arm bands to wear.”

Campers came from around the tri-county area, Warner Robins, Dallas and numerous other places. Ben Tyre said his trip to Cordele from Dallas, GA marked the fifth celebration he had attended.

“There are about seven of us here from Warner Robins and Dallas,” he said. “Of the celebrations I have attended, I have received the prize four times. I enjoy taking part in each celebration.”

Some campers traveled from Alabama, Tennessee and as far north as Indiana for the event. One camper, from Clearwater, FL, was known by his Chick-fil-A nametag as “Crazy John.” A regular patron of the restaurant, he sat and chatted with friends at a table outside.

Throughout the day the restaurant provided breakfast, lunch and dinner for participants, and games were planned periodically with prizes awarded.

One such game awarded a patron a gallon of lemonade for being first to eat a pack of crackers and still be able to whistle. A DJ will join the crowd from 6 until 10 p.m., and a cookies and milk party is planned for just before bedtime. The events are for campers only.

“We are just so honored that our customers love us so much,” Angie Slifer, events planner, said. “If they are willing to come out and be here all day and night then we are going to do what we can to make it a wonderful experience.”

Chick-fil-A will officially open for business Thursday, Jan. 10 with a ribbon cutting ceremony at 9 a.m.

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