Hundreds of supporters eat at Wichita’s Chick-fil-A for lunch

08/01/2012 5:00 AM

08/01/2012 6:30 PM

From all directions people came Wednesday to show support for Chick-fil-A.

So much so that Wichita police were called in to direct traffic over the noon hour at the restaurant on Central near Rock Road.

Estimated wait time: 60 minutes or longer.

But it was all worth it, said Kansas supporters of the chicken chain whose executive’s comments about gay marriage caused former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, a Baptist minister, to declare Wednesday national “Chick-fil-A Appreciation Day.”

Stephen Hoover and Elle Georgiou of Hesston held hands as they waited in line.

“We wanted to show support,” Hoover said. “I know they have taken an unpopular stand. We want them to know they are not alone and that we will be here to support them.”

“We don’t mind the wait,” Georgiou said.

Chick-fil-A president Dan Cathy told the Baptist Press last month at the Atlanta-based company was “guilty as charged” for backing “the biblical definition of a family.” That unleashed a torrent of criticism from gay-rights groups and others, who have called for boycotts and efforts to block the chain from opening new stores.

Throughout the nation Wednesday, people showed Chick-fil-A support. A spokeswoman for the Rev. Billy Graham said the 93-year-old evangelist ate a Chick-fil-A lunch, including a chicken sandwich and waffle fries, at his North Carolina home.

In Wichita, the city’s first free-standing Chick-fil-A store opened at Central and Rock in March. A second store at 21st and Maize is scheduled to open Aug. 9.

Franchise owner Brad Fuller did not return a phone call to comment on Wednesday’s turnout in Wichita.

Throughout much of the noon hour Wednesday at least 200 people at any given time waited as the line inched along. Cars lined up to circle the drive-throughs.

Steve and Veva Ruggles drove in from Winfield.

It was well over 100 degrees in the noon sun. Chick-fil-A workers brought out trays of cups filled with cold water.

“He is not saying he is not going to serve them (gays),” Veva Ruggles said as she waited. “We feel like it is his belief. What he is saying is that he doesn’t believe in gay marriage.”

Wichitan Derek Chapman was enthusiastic about the line. “It is unusual and a great way to show support by someone who is maligned in the press.”

And Wichitan Paul Jerome stood with cousins and his wife under an umbrella to show their support.

“What is at principle is not a moral dilemma,” Jerome said. “It is the chastising of someone who stood up for their moral value as demonizing. We have chosen to come and support Chick-fil-A. We believe that whatever you believe, it shouldn’t be disregarded as invaluable just because it opposed others’ beliefs.”

Opponents of the company’s stance are planning “Kiss Mor Chiks” for Friday, when they are encouraging people of the same sex to show up at Chick-fil-A restaurants around the country and kiss each other.

Contributing: Associated Press

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