Not Chick-fil-A to take a stand: Supporters create feeding frenzy

David Albers/Staff
-  A line of customers stretches outside during lunchtime at the Chick-fil-A at 5825 Airport Pulling Road North on Wednesday, Aug. 1, 2012, in Naples. Chick-fil-A supporters around the U.S. packed the fast food restaurants at lunchtime Wednesday in support of the company and its president's opposition to gay marriage.

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David Albers/Staff - A line of customers stretches outside during lunchtime at the Chick-fil-A at 5825 Airport Pulling Road North on Wednesday, Aug. 1, 2012, in Naples. Chick-fil-A supporters around the U.S. packed the fast food restaurants at lunchtime Wednesday in support of the company and its president's opposition to gay marriage.

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Naples resident Ken Wright didn’t just go to one Chick-fil-A on Wednesday. The 65-year-old went to seven of the restaurants on Chick-fil-A Appreciation Day.

He, and many others around the country, created a feeding frenzy resembling a free-food giveaway.

“We are showing the people what we really think is right,” said Wright, who took his two German shepherds along for the ride. “The owner has the right to stand up for his belief without being penalized.”

Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee created the psuedo-poultry holiday to counter a nationwide boycott of the eatery after Chick-fil-A’s Chief Executive Officer Dan Cathy said he doesn’t support gay marriage.

Huckabee called for supporters of business and Christian values to take a bite into the boycotts and buy some chicken and waffle fries on Aug. 1. And the country answered his call. From Northridge, Calif., to Barboursville, W.Va., they caused traffic jams, spiked sales and rallied behind the First Amendment.

Locally, church groups, families and hungry residents waited in cars and on foot in lines with wait times as long as 45 minutes for a fast food meal.

P.J. Rodriguez, owner of the Airport-Pulling Road location said they were prepared for the large crowds.

“We expected there to be a lot of people showing up,” Rodriguez said, fielding questions and handing food to customers. “We were prepared with extra staff and extra food.”

Not just a little extra, enough food to feed 20,000 people with six extra people to help.

Rodriguez said he couldn’t comment on the company’s stance but added, “we treat everybody with honor, dignity and respect.”

Opponents of Cathy’s stance have planned “Kiss Mor Chiks” for Friday, asking people of the same sex to show up at Chick-fil-A locations and kiss each other.

Local activists group did not have plans to protest Friday, but supported the national sentiment against Chick-fil-A.

“I think it’s an important thing to do,” said Ruth Dorman, vice president of the Collier County chapter of Parents, Families, & Friends of Lesbians and Gays, or PFLAG.

Maria Roca, adviser to the student Gay Straight Alliance at Florida Gulf Coast University, said her group disagreed with the installation of a Chick-fil-A in the campus student center earlier this year.

Roca doesn’t know if a protest will hurt Chick-fil-A’s sales, but said getting the message of equality out is important.

“At this point in history, I’m just amazed that there are still the kinds of feelings there are about gay rights,” Roca said.

Local supporters of Chick-fil-A certainly increased sales Wednesday and caused a traffic jam at the Airport-Pulling Road location.

“I’ve been here for two hours, and the line hasn’t stopped,” said Santina Repka, 74, of Naples. “People are standing up for what they think is right. Marriage should be between a man and woman.”

Repka’s pastor, Paul Bazalgette of Grace Life Church in Naples, said he came not only to support the sanctity of marriage as stated by the Bible, but to support the First Amendment.

“As an Englishman, I think America is the greatest country in the world. One of the reasons is because of Freedom of Speech,” Bazalgette said. “To attempt to shut down a business because ‘I don’t like their opinions’ then the basic fabric of what this country stands for is disintegrated.”

Randy Giles, 44, who had never eaten at a Chick-fil-A before, said he was thrilled so many people came out to support free speech.

“They got an extra customer because of this madness,” Giles said.

Michelle Lemarie, 44, waited in her SUV as the line of cars grew behind her to support the business, not its beliefs.

“I love Chick-fil-A,” Lemarie said. “Not everyone has to agree, but it doesn’t mean a business has to be condemned. Personally, I agree with the company, but even if we’re not of the same mindset, can’t we all just get along?”

All area Chick-Fil-As experienced “record-breaking days,” as smiling, mild-mannered residents enjoyed a meal with their family, unfazed by the wait.

Jen Denard came out to support the Christian-based restaurant that closes on Sunday and has been public about its religious beliefs.

“Dan Cathy didn’t write the Bible, he’s just trying to live by it,” Denard said. “He also is making really great chicken sandwiches.”

Some came with kids as young as 6 months and others as old as 16 years old. One family came to celebrate a new Baptism.

Dave Summers, who drove from his Fort Myers home to the Estero location, said his wife, Judy, asked him to go pick up some salads to support the chain.

Summers, a New Yorker, said everyone should just get along and worry about more important issues, such as the homeless and jobless. He called discrimination a “thing of the past.”

“The gays are just as welcome here and they hire gay people,” Summers said. “Why protest his values? If that’s his belief, what’s it matter? God bless him.”

“Two days ago, I stopped at the Chik-fil-A in Port Charlotte and a clean-cut young man came in and said grace, ate his food and left. You know what? It seemed like America again. … I hope on Friday all the gays come here and they all go in and have a good lunch and enjoy themselves.”

Staff writers Aisling Swift and Kristine Gill contributed to this story

© 2012 marconews.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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