BRADENTON -- How much would you endure for free Chick-fil-A for a year?
Only 100 who survive the humid, hot Florida heat, perhaps an afternoon downpour and little sleep will be rewarded with a free Chick-fil-A sandwich, waffle fries and a medium drink for a year.
The First 100 is a signature event of Chick-fil-A grand openings, attracting people from hundreds of miles away. Bradenton's newest Chick-fil-A is gearing up for its own First 100 to launch at 6 a.m. Wednesday, in time for the 6 a.m. Thursday grand opening at 4573 14th St. W, in Cortez Plaza.
The first 100 people will win a number during a drawing, according to Chick-fil-A's giveaway official rules.
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If more than 100 people show up by 6 a.m., a drawing will be held to determine the 100, plus 10 people will win a chance to be an alternate and wait it out for 24 hours.
That's about $30,000 worth of free food, according to the Atlanta-based chain.
Cindi Pickett, a spokeswoman for Chick-fil-A, has seen it all at these intense tent cities that form in the restaurants' parking lots.
"I've seen couches, I've seen arm chairs, seen people take seats out of their vans to
set up," she said. "I've even seen people set up a bedroom with an electric lamp and side table."
The dedication for free food is amazing, and perhaps defies logic as some people, according to Pickett, will hop a plane just to get a chance at becoming one of the 100.
Perhaps for the poultry, but many come for the party. The brave campers will be fed breakfast, lunch, dinner, have snacks and drinks provided, a private DJ party at night and games to pass the time where the Chick-fil-A cow will bust a moo, er, move.
"It wouldn't be complete without the Chicken Dance, of course," Pickett said.
Some of the more unusual games include the Frozen T-shirt game where people have to figure out how to put on a T-shirt frozen shut. Or there is the Oreo game.
"They put an Oreo on their forehead, and maneuver it down to their mouth without their hands," Pickett said.
Those games, food and dance moves will be reserved just for the 100-plus guests on site, and will be closed off to the public to avoid an uncontrollable crowd, she added.
Of course, there are rules. Here are the big ones:
Arrive between 5:30 a.m. and 6 a.m. Wednesday with all your needed supplies to mark your spot.
Tents and supplies are OK.
Participants are allowedto have up to five guests tohelp make it through the day.
Must be 18 years or older.
Guests 5 years and older are allowed to accompany participants, and will be fed, too.
Bathroom breaks will be granted, but must be brief.
If you have health, medical or other personal issues, it's best to not come.
And come prepared for the weather. The high for Wednesday is expected to be near 90, with 30 percent chance of an isolated thunderstorm, according to the National Weather Service.
"If there is lightning, we'll bring everyone into the restaurant until it subsides, but if it's just rain, you gotta hunker down," she said. "Sometimes when it's hot out there, that thing just doesn't wanna go anywhere."
The new Chick-fil-A in Bradenton is one of 114 new restaurants the chain plans to open across the country in 2013. The first Chick-fil-A in Bradenton opened inside the DeSoto Square Mall in 1977, and it wasn't until 2001 when the first standalone would open at the Creekwood Crossing shopping center off of State Route 70.
The new store will be owned and operated by Nathan Hoeksema, who is a Chick-fil-A lifer. The Bradenton Christian School graduate started working there in 1993 as his first job during his sophomore year of high school, even along with his three siblings at one point.
Hoeksema moved up the ladder and eventually took over as operator at age 22. Now 36, he will oversee his first freestanding restaurant after turning the food court location over to the company.
This will be a full-circle grand opening for Hoeksema, as the man who hired him at the DeSoto mall, Lloyd Anderson, is flying in from Kansas City to witness the event, Pickett said.
Employing about 80 people at the restaurant, he knows that many of them will be teenagers starting their first job just like he did. Hoeksema's goal is to be a mentor to the teens, and not just their boss.
"My goal is to make sure that you are better off than you are right now when you applied for Chick-fil-A," Hoeksema said. Hoeksema is married to Cynthia, a Manatee High School graduate, and they have two children.
The new restaurant will have one of the newer layouts with a dual-lane drive-thru as well as a split-top counter allowing employees to easily enter the dining room to take care of guests, he said.
For more information on the Cortez Plaza restaurant, visit www.chick-fil-a.com/cortezplaza. For official rules for the First 100, visit www.chick-fil-a.com/Locations/First-100.
The restaurant's regular hours are 6:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday-Saturday and, as always, are closed Sundays.
Charles Schelle, business reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7095. Follow him on Twitter @ImYourChuck.