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For the love of chicken

Community: Eager customers camp out at Chick-fil-A restaurant on eve of its opening

Posted: July 28, 2010 9:04 p.m.
Updated: July 29, 2010 4:30 a.m.

Nine-year-old Zach Garner and his sister Kayley, 11, of Castaic, participate in the Oreo cookie challenge Wednesday outside Chick-fil-A.

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A sliced bun, one chicken patty, two slices of pickle. That’s all it takes to motivate people to brave blazing midday temperatures and spend the night camped out on concrete.

That, and the promise of free chicken sandwiches for a year.

More than 100 people gathered before 6 a.m. Wednesday at the site of Santa Clarita’s first Chick-fil-A at the Westfield Valencia Town Center in hopes of taking part in the company’s First 100 Celebration — some even spent a night preparing.

“We probably got about three-and-a-half hours of sleep,” said Marisa Ward, 22, of Santa Clarita.

Ward and her two friends, Brittany Kuhn, 22, and Sarah Lowery, 20, were up until past 1 a.m. Wednesday morning customizing their white shirts, each with one part of the Chick-fil-A logo, surrounded by black spots, meant to look like cows.

“I was really excited, and I tried to get everyone else really excited,” Ward said.

Lowery and Kuhn had never eaten at the restaurant before Wednesday.

“I loved it. I’m more of a chicken person,” Kuhn said. “I don’t eat red meat, so this is a great place to come.”

The event, which started more than six years ago at an opening in Arizona, awards a one-year supply of free meals to participants who camp out at the restaurant for 24 hours before the official opening.

“This morning, when I got out here and I saw 150 people line up, I thought, ‘We’re actually opening,’” said Dustin LaChance, owner of the new Chick-fil-A. “The people are so excited. They enjoy this. They’re hot out here, and they’re sweating, but they want to be here.”

Kristy Garner, who waited outside with her son Zach, was thankful for the games.

“You have to partake in the fun, otherwise this is just torture,” Garner said.

Despite the heat, The First 100 Celebration attracts veteran campers from all over.

“My first (opening) was me and my husband at the City of Industry,” said Monique Hampton, of La Habra. “We didn’t know what to expect, but people started filling us in. ... I was just so impressed with it. I fell in love with it.”

Wednesday’s event was Hampton’s ninth career campout, and her experience showed in her setup: a raised air mattress, a bedside table and a photo album chronicling her Chick-fil-A adventures — all of this underneath a shaded cover and makeshift curtains.

“I’m trying to make (the total) 10 this year. Ten or 13,” she said, laughing.

LaChance and his brother, restaurant manager Donovan LaChance, are transplants from St. Petersburg, Fla. They said they’re looking forward to the future.

“I want to cry,” Dustin LaChance said. “It just gets me that excited. I can’t wait to see these people walk in the door.”
Chick-fil-A is located at 24180 Magic Mountain Parkway and open from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m., Monday through Saturday.

The restaurant is closed on Sundays.



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