The Chick-fil-a First 100 at Fort Collins (with bonus blizzard!)

I’ve been wanting to do a Chick-fil-a grand opening for awhile now. For those not in the know, here’s the deal: Every time a new Chick-fil-a opens, the first 100 people there receive free chicken for a year. Or, more specifically, 52 coupons for a free #1 combo meal (which includes a chicken sandwich, waffle fries, and a beverage). It’s a pretty sweet deal. So sweet, in fact, that they had to change the way they did things as people were piling up multiple days in advance to get in line.

Here’s now it’s done now: 24 hours before the store opens (at 5:30am or thereabouts), if there are more then 100 people present, a raffle is held, and the winners get to sit around for the next 24 hours waiting in line. And by ‘in line’ I mean that you get a space assigned in the parking lot, where you set up a tent or chair or whatever else you brought with to be comfortable and out of the elements. Aside from bathroom breaks and grand opening events (like games and such), you’ve gotta keep your place in line, or you shall lose it and person #101 that shows up shall be a very happy person indeed. In any case, there was an opening in Fort Collins, CO, and Drew and I, being unemployed/underemployed, decided that sitting outside for 24 hours to get free chicken would be a sweet deal. It calculates out to being a bit more then $12 an hour which, while isn’t exactly fabulous, sure beats $0 an hour. Plus, Chick-fil-a is delicious and I appreciate having 52 excuses to eat it.

I had read an article online anticipating there being as many as 300-400 people there when the raffle would be held, so Drew and I got up at the bright and early hour of 3:20 am to drive an hour north in what turned out to be snowy weather. We brought along a tent plus sleeping bags and blankets, to help combat the weather. Now, at the time I thought we were going to get about 6 inches of snow. At some point or another that amount pretty much tripled. It probably happened around the point that we realized our tent was designed for summer camping, and that it was indeed possible for it to snow *inside* a tent that was ventilated like ours was, and that I simply could not sleep with cold feet, and that it was pretty much impossible to make my feet anything but cold. It was super fun.

Here’s Drew, doing something or another to our tent (Entering? Leaving? Battening the hatches, perhaps?):

Drew with the tent

To be quite honest, the first 12 hours were pretty miserable. I got approximately 20 minutes of sleep the night before, and thus spent most of 6:00 am to 6:00 pm attempting to catch up, and failing. There are a few highlights of that first 12 hours, though. For one, I got interviewed by someone from Denver’s Channel 4 News. Oh wait, this wasn’t a highlight at all, See, I think I was so lucky as to be interviewed by a morning show guy. He had this weird exaggerated morning show attitude, and seemed to view everything going on, and everything I said, with a ‘this is nutty!’ air. I got very little response from what I felt were reasonable answers. Or rather, what I realized several hours after the fact were reasonable answers. At the time I just assumed my IQ had disappeared. But no, as other reporters showed up and I got to eavesdrop on other interviews later (apparently camping out in a blizzard for chicken is newsworthy around here), I heard answers rather similar to mine repeated, and the reporters actually engaging the other people in conversation. I think the morning show guy targeted me because I was wearing a silly hat (a mudkip hat, to be specific). Silly hat got removed after that, for I feared the wrath of more reporters.

Reporter!!! AHH!!!

Around noon, we struggled out of the tent for free sandwiches and a line count. Drew and I were #7 and #8, respectively. We were #8 and #9 until some poor woman who came with just a backpack and a chair realized what she was about to get herself into, and got out of there before she froze. At 6:00 pm, it was dinnertime, and we got to enjoy the benefits of a full menu (I got a chargrilled wrap, fries, Dr. Pepper, and a brownie, if anyone cares). Even better, we got to enjoy the benefits of sitting inside a warm building. Someone in the upper levels of CFA was there from North Carolina, and he gave a talk about the company’s history and answered questions and such, and we also got a tour of the building. It was pretty interesting. For one thing, the back was significantly more organized then the McDonalds I was once employed in. They have great big bags of oreo pieces for their cookies and cream milkshakes, and I seriously wanted to grab one of said bags and bury my face in it. No frozen precooked meat either: they have chicken on hand and bread it and pressure cook it there.

Realizing the potential for frozen people, they brought in three large gas heaters, which did wonders at providing some decent warmth. Here’s a before picture to give you an idea of the snow at that point:

snowy heater

And, the after picture with the fire ablazing. This baby was affectionately dubbed the “fire umbrella”:

fire umbrella

So the rest of the evening was spent hanging out in front of said fire umbrella, combined with many strategic bathroom breaks as well as some Chick-fil-a provided hot chocolate, complete with marshmallows, mint chips, whipped cream, and bonus cookies. Rumor has it that these openings have all sorts of games, along with a DJ, but due to that whole “blizzard” thing, the games were minimal and no DJ for us. Rumor also has it that they also do ice cream parties, but they made a rather wise decision to replace that with hot chocolate.

And, in contrast to the first 12 hours, Wednesday evening was really enjoyable. Free meal plus heat definitely helped. I also met a lot of really interesting and fun people, and that specifically makes me really want to do this again (well, that plus the chicken, I suppose). See, it takes a certain sort of person to want to hang out in a blizzard for free chicken, and I guess it’s pretty rare for us to come in contact with each other in day to day life.

So Drew and I had been in the habit of clearing off our tent of snow when we entered and exited it, but others not so much. Someone even commented that it looked like we were at base camp for a major hike. Somewhere under these mounds of snow, there are tents:

hidden tents

Anyhow, we crashed around 1 or so. Or rather, Drew crashed, and much to my and his amazement slept pretty soundly. I, however, tossed and turned and was generally pretty miserable. A smarter me would have accepted defeat and hung out at the heaters all night, but no, I was convinced I could sleep. I may have even gotten 30 minutes or so, who knows? So we got up at 5, packed all of our stuff up and dumped in the car (which, incidentally, was extremely hard to find as it was concealed in 1.5 feet or so of snow). We got our gloriously free coupons, along with little stuffed cows and a commemorative t-shirt for the event. We drove home, very slowly, in awful conditions where the sky was about as white as the ground. Or more specifically, Drew drove home while I muttered in a sleep-deprived and incoherent manner. Lucky we were headed south to Denver, as the interstate was shut down north of Fort Collins up to the Wyoming border due to snow.

Anyhow, it was fun. Or rather, several parts of it were fun, and the rest I can choose to block out. If nothing else, memories of the misery will make the chicken taste oh so much better.

sign plus chair

Incidentally, if you’d like to see more pictures I took of this exciting event, feel free to check them out on facebook!

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  1. Scott Burger October 31, 2009 6:50 am

    Thats quite a feat. I have heard about events like this and seen some mildly entertaining documentaries about them- “Hands On A Hard Body”, anyone?

    But one thing I feel compelled to mention is the environmental problems associated with the cheap chicken that Chick-fil-a and other fast food chains serve. Massive chicken farms in places like Virginia’s Eastern Shore are poisoning the Chesapeake Bay and other bodies of water with stormwater runoff that is full of chicken pee and poop. Its a real problem that is killing the Bay.

    I don’t mean to be a total kill joy, and I too enjoy a good chicken sandwich from time to time, but its something that people need to be educated about so that they can lobby their political representatives to fix. The fast food corporations keep the farms as independent agents so that they can wash their hands of it, so to speak, while the farmers claim they have raise massive amounts of chickens to stay competitive and solvent.

    In short, I understand and in a sense admire your quest for cheap chicken, but something does need to change overall to save the environment.

  2. CC November 13, 2009 11:31 pm

    Thanks for the great story (and for braving the storm to tell it)– I had no idea Chick-fil-a did these events, but I’ll be on the lookout now!

  3. best essay uk July 3, 2017 9:09 am

    Wow now this is something that is interesting for me and I will keep that in mind about this free chicken. But yet there is no outlet of them in our town from where I can get all that chicken.