HARLINGEN – Hector Morales sat in the shade of the new Chick-Fil-A fast food restaurant yesterday, a big smile on his face.
The Harlingen resident’s bracelet showed he was number one, making him the first to receive a year of free Chick-Fil-A meals.
“I’ve been here since last night,” said Morales, 42, of Harlingen. “I didn’t get any sleep. I have been sitting in a chair while everybody’s asleep.”
The new Chick-Fil-A at 1814 S. 77 Sunshine Strip is the second in Harlingen, the first is located at 1021 Dixieland Road.
The opening for the new one had a luau theme, and Morales wore a green lei. Just a few feet away, his blue bedding with colorful cartoon characters lay stretched across the cement parking lot beneath a canopy.
Many people had arrived at about 6 a.m., some earlier, so they could be one of the First 100 in order to receive a one-year supply of Chick-Fil-A meals.
The free meals are awarded on a digital card loaded with 52 free Chick-fil-A meals.
Each meal consists of a Chick-fil-A Chicken Sandwich, medium Waffle Potato Fries and a medium beverage. This is a value of about $300.
By noon yesterday, the parking lot seemed more like a block party.
Colorful canopies and pup tents stood everywhere. Music from a boom box filled the air and people dozed on cots.
In order to receive their prize, they had to stay until the official opening – which was 6 a.m. this morning.
“We got here like at 6 o’clock,” said Delia Henn, 70. “We get to stay here from 6 to 6.”
Henn was with her husband Albert, 66, plus a son-in-law, a granddaughter and other relatives. It was basically a family affair.
“We’re getting about $350 worth of food,” said Albert Henn, referring to the 52 free meals he and the first 100 would receive.
Francisco Castellanos, the owner, liked the way preparations were taking place for the opening as well as the crowd that had formed outside is brand new restaurant.
He said at that time, 80 people had received bracelets for the free meals.
Inside the restaurant, clusters of new employees gathered at tables where they trained for the grand opening today.
“It’s going great,” he said. “Obviously we’re doing our training, just the different procedures.”
The new restaurant is employing almost 100 people.
While some may find spending 24 hours outside a restaurant somewhat intimidating, others were used to it. They’d done it before.
For Marissa Camacho, 21, this Chick-fil-A opening was her third. Getting time away from work took some doing for the Weslaco resident.
“I have two bosses,” she said. “I had to ask them both.”
Her friend Stephanie Mata, 21, also had to make arrangements with her boss.
“I had to reschedule some of my hours,” she said.
Mata likes Chick-fil-A for more than its food.
“They take care of their customers,” she said. “No other restaurant does that.”
Not everybody was all that excited about being there.
Victoria Medrano, 13, of Los Fresnos, would have preferred to have been somewhere else. She’d just met Nahum Luna, 12, and they were sitting in chairs talking.
“I don’t like it,” she said crossly.
“Don’t you want free food?” said Nahum, a Brownsville resident.
“It gets you fat,” she said.
A man had stepped up to point out some of the more enjoyable features of the event.
“Don’t forget they serve you breakfast, lunch and dinner,” he said. “They take care of you all.”
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