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Patrons brave frigid weather for chance to win free Chick-fil-A meals in Derby

Ron and Rexann Wood, who live just outside of Derby, camp out at the Chick-fil-A in Derby, which opens at 6 a.m. Thursday. The Woods have been waiting since 4:30 a.m. Wednesday in hopes of winning a year’s worth of free Chick-fil-A meals.
Ron and Rexann Wood, who live just outside of Derby, camp out at the Chick-fil-A in Derby, which opens at 6 a.m. Thursday. The Woods have been waiting since 4:30 a.m. Wednesday in hopes of winning a year’s worth of free Chick-fil-A meals. The Wichita Eagle

The area south of the Chick-fil-A in Derby looked more like a campground than a restaurant parking lot.

Dozens of multicolored tents covered the asphalt Wednesday evening. But the weather – 14 degrees by 5 p.m. – was not ideal for the types of tents sold in Kansas, said Ron Wood, who had been camping with his wife, Rexann, since 4:30 a.m. Wednesday.

“They don’t make winter tents in Kansas,” he said. “They make them in Colorado, but not in Kansas.”

To promote its new restaurant in Derby, Chick-fil-A is giving 100 people a year’s worth of meals. The first 100 people to arrive at the restaurant at 1818 N. Rock Road will get a wristband. As long as they stay on-site until the restaurant opens at 6 a.m. Thursday, they will be able to trade their wristbands for a card loaded with 52 free Chick-fil-A meals.

By late afternoon Wednesday, more than 50 people were camping out in the parking lot. A few brave souls with thick coats and hats stood in front of the restaurant drinking coffee, provided for free by the fast-food chain. But most were huddled in their nonwinter tents.

Wood, who was using an industrial heater to keep warm, said it’s worth it.

“This is first class,” he said. “They feed us. They fed us breakfast, they fed us lunch, and they took our order for dinner.”

Accommodations provided by the restaurant included indoor restrooms, free meals, electrical outlets, coffee and prizes that campers could win by playing games. Wood said it’s like a festival.

“It’s like Burning Man, without the burning man,” he said, referring to the annual festival in Nevada. “It’s what we can do here in Kansas.”

Some campers brought their own entertainment. Nick Layton and Justin Bruns, both of Wellington, brought an Xbox and an LED TV for their tent. They also brought a couple of instruments, including a ukulele and a small drum.

“Twenty-four hours, dude – you’re bound to get bored,” Layton said. “So you might as well bring everything.”

To stay warm, they brought a heater, two electric blankets and four regular blankets, all on top of an inflated mattress.

“Really, it’s not bad at all in here,” Layton said. “It’s really weird, ’cause I mean we’re comfortable, but we can see our breath.”

Even with all of Chick-fil-A’s accommodations, the restaurant didn’t provide much in the way of warm clothes.

“We feel confident that a lot of our campers came prepared … and dressed up really well,” franchisee Andrew Nelson said.

With a predicted subzero temperature overnight, Wood said he’s prepared.

“It’s all part of the fun,” he said.

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