BATAVIA – A sloppy mix of rain and sleet fell Thursday on Rich Fitzgerald as he took down his tent in front of the newly opened Chick-fil-A restaurant on Randall Road in Batavia.
Fitzgerald was among 100 people who camped in front of the Chick-fil-A for 24 hours to win a one-year supply of free meals. He arrived at Chick-fil-A at 5:15 a.m. Wednesday.
To keep himself warm overnight, Fitzgerald brought a portable heater.
“It kept the chill off,” he said. “It provided a little heat, so I was not freezing cold.”
The promotion was part of Chick-fil-A’s grand opening at 185 N. Randall Road, the first in the Tri-Cities. Chick-fil-A employees greeted Fitzgerald and the others with applause as they strolled through the restaurant about 6 a.m. to receive their meal tickets.
The restaurant officially opened for business at 6:30 a.m.
Fitzgerald has traveled to seven states and participated in 17 openings. For Fitzgerald, it’s about more than free food.
“It’s a party atmosphere,” he said. “I’ve met a lot of great people.”
This is the sixth time Carol Stream resident Joe Jones has camped at a Chick-fil-A. He was sure to bring a tent with him.
“I’m just not brave enough to sit in a lawn chair and hope for the best,” Jones said.
Todd Moore, 45, of Griffin, Ga., has racked up plenty of free food from Chick-fil-A over the years. Thursday’s grand opening was his 70th.
“When you do a lot of them, you sort of get addicted to them,” Moore said.
Murray Collier, the owner/operator of the Batavia Chick-fil-A, said he was overwhelmed by the turnout. His wife, Jamie, grew up in Batavia.
“It’s just amazing to me that we have such dedicated fans who are willing to spend the night in the rain and the snow,” Collier said.