By Patti Brown
Dave and Sharon Benson drove more than 90 miles from Floirs, a small town south of Ottumwa, to eat at the Chick-fil-A in Coral Ridge Mall in Coralville Wednesday evening. “We just wanted to be a part of this. This is important,” said Sharon.
The Bensons were among thousands of Iowans who stood in line at Chick-fil-A restaurants across the state and across the country to support free speech. The event was organized by former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee in response by some on the political left to boycott the fast food chain over the stance its president and COO, Dan Cathy, has taken in support of traditional marriage.
In an interview earlier this month with the Baptist Press and in a follow up radio interview Cathy unequivocally expressed his belief in “the biblical definition of the family unit.”
Elected officials in Chicago, Boston and San Francisco have spoke out that Chick-fil-A was not welcome in their cities. Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel said, “Chick-fil-A’s values are not Chicago values.”
Gov. Huckabee posted an invitation for the “Appreciation Day” on his Facebook page and promoted the event on his television and radio shows. “Let’s affirm a business that operates on Christian principles and whose executives are willing to take a stand for the Godly values we espouse by simply showing up and eating at Chick-fil-A on Wednesday, August 1.”
By Wednesday he had received more than 21 million site visits to his Facebook event page and more than 667,000 people responded they intended to join him in patronizing the Atlanta-based chain for a chicken sandwich and some waffle fries.
Carter Tucker, interim manager of the Chick-fil-A located in the food court at Jordan Creek Mall in West Des Moines described the Appreciation Day as a “fan-based promotion” that was not coordinated by the Chick-fil-A corporation.
More than 5,000 people lined up for breakfast, lunch and dinner at the suburban eatery. Many waited 90 minutes or more in line to get to the counter to buy a sandwich throughout the day.
At Coral Ridge Mall more than 300 people were lined up at 7 p.m. waiting to order dinner. According to one mall security official the lines had been constant all day.
Tim Connell of Swisher, Iowa heard Governor Huckabee talk about the event on his radio show. “It is important to take a stand and let America know this is about freedom of religion and freedom of speech,” said Connell who had waited in line for more than 20 minutes and was not yet half way through the queue. “You shouldn’t try to hold capitalism hostage over a CEO’s beliefs,” said Connell.
Matt Prickett, a farmer from Mt. Pleasant brought his mom and a friend to the Coral Ridge Chick-fil-A. “Honestly I’ve never been to a Chick-fil-A before,” said Prickett “but this guy (Cathy) is getting a bashing. If you don’t stand for something you will fall for anything.”
Headquartered in College Park, Georgia, there are 1,608 Chick-fil-A restaurants in 39 states and the District of Columbia employing more than 61,000 people and with sales of more than $4 billion last year. There are 10 in Iowa with a new Chick-fil-A set to open August 17 at 6555 Mills Civic Parkway in West Des Moines.
According to the company’s webpage Chick-fil-A’s corporate purpose is “To glorify God by being a faithful steward of all that is entrusted to us. To have a positive influence on all who come in contact with Chick-fil-A.”
Photos from Coral Ridge Mall in Coralville