About 125 people are set up with tents and card tables and games in the parking lot of the about-to-open Chick-fil-A at 10515 W. 21st St., where they’ve been gathered since 5:30 a.m. Their goal: to remain in the parking lot until 6 a.m. Thursday, when the restaurant officially opens. Those who do will win a coupon book good for free Chick-fil-A food for a year.
It’s part of the chain’s “First 100″ event, which it puts on every time it opens a new store. An identical event drew a crowd of 150 campers when the east-side Chick-fil-A at 7990 E. Central opened in March.
Today’s crowd, which included alternates plus friends of registered campers, was made up of adults, teens and kids from both Wichita and beyond. A 2-year-old girl napped on a blanket on the sidewalk against the building while four teenage boys played a game of four-square nearby. Four people played cards at a folding table under a tent while children navigated the parking lot tent village on their scooters. One woman identified herself as a professional Chick-fil-A camper, who drove from Oklahoma City to participate. This was her fourth “First 100″ campout.
Among the campers was Bryan Aubuchon, whose 3-year-old daughter, Nicole, developed an affinity for Chick-fil-A while on vacation in Kansas City this summer. She loved the playground and the food. “It’s all she ever talks about,” he said with a laugh. “She dances around singing ‘Chick-fil-A. Chick-fil-A.’”
Aubuchon took off work for the campout. Though he planned to man the tent throughout the hot day on Wednesday, he promised Nicole she could sleep in the tent overnight.
Owner/operator Jason Lansdown was on-site wearing his Chick-fil-A tie on Wednesday morning. He said that police officers will be stationed at the restaurant Thursday through Saturday at least to help direct traffic in and out of the restaurant, which is surrounded by hard-to-navigate road construction at 21st and Maize.
The restaurant opens at 6 a.m. Thursday. Hours are 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. Mondays through Saturdays.
Also, until 9 p.m. tonight, the Kansas Food Bank will be at Chick-fil-A collecting donations for the “Food for Kids” program, which sends food home with schoolchildren in need. Particularly needed, officials said, are items such as granola bars and peanut butter. Anyone who drops off a donation by 3 p.m. will receive a coupon for a free Chick-fil-A sandwich. Donations can also be made by clicking on the Chick-fil-A logo at www.kansasfoodbank.org. Customers can bring in the receipt and collect a sandwich coupon.