Campers crowd Chick-fil-A lot to win 52 meals
NORWALK — The new Chick-fil-A at 467 Connecticut Ave. began bustling with life Wednesday morning.
Nearly three dozen cars crowded in the parking lot, and men in yellow aprons emblazoned with the words “RAW CHICKEN POLLO CRUDO” unloaded boxes of poultry from a large truck.
And though the restaurant would not officially open until the next day, a small tent city had already assembled outside the front doors.
“We’re huge Chick-fil-A fans,” said Kathryn Roche of Darien, who had arrived at 5:05 a.m.
The first 100 people at the new Chick-fil-A would win 52 meals — what the Georgia-based fast-food chain known for its hospitality, Christian values and chicken biscuits billed as a year’s worth of free food. Each meal consists of a chicken sandwich, waffle fries and a medium drink.
So starting around 5 a.m. on Wednesday — although the contest officially didn’t begin for another half hour — people began setting up camp outside the new restaurant. They brought Thermoses of hot chocolate, air mattresses and at least one solar-powered battery and wi-fi hot spot. By 11:45 a.m., 19 people had set up camp.
The contest is common at Chick-fil-A openings, but the restaurant does not have many locations in Connecticut (there are seven besides the new one in Norwalk). Many of those camped out had first encountered the chain in the South, where it was founded.
Brad Iechner, who was camped out with his wife, Deirdre Iechner, previously camped out for a Chick-fil-A contest in North Carolina during his senior year of college.
“I was actually telling her if one opened in Connecticut, we should go,” said Brad Iechner.
The Stamford couple Googled the next opening in the area and made a point to attend.
Roche, who sat outside of her tent with a laptop — she had only taken a half day off and was keeping up remotely — had first eaten at the chain during a work trip to Virginia. She could still remember her first chicken biscuit.
“The chicken has a secret flavor,” Roche said. “Actually, we figured it out online: It’s pickle juice.”
Several activities were scheduled for the campers, including a behind-the-scenes tour of the kitchen, a lip syncing competition and an ice cream social. That morning, the campers had already participated in a name-that-tune contest.
T.J. Garbera, who had arranged for Norwalk Common Council candidate Mark Suda to bring him a campaign sign to display at his tent, was a winner in the contest. The prize was a stuffed cow wearing a sign advising “Eat Mor Chikin’.” He gave it to a fellow camper, Alexa Laub of Stamford, who was in the third trimester of her pregnancy.
“It was really nice,” she said.
Garbera shrugged with a laugh, explaining that he could only have brought the toy home if he had one for each child. “I have two kids, that’s the way it is — if I bring only one cow home, they’ll lynch me.”
Now Austin Laub, who is due in January, will have a lasting memento of the campout.
Alexa Laub was surprised by the low turnout that morning. “It’s fun, and it’s 52 free meals, so it’s shocking,” she said.
Laub had big plans for those meals. Her husband hadn’t been able to join that morning because of a meeting at work. “I told him this is his birthday present from me for the next five years,” Laub said.