Ha. I did it. I faced my own fears of large crowds and waiting in long lines.
Summer Bucket List #1. Check.
I proudly became a CFA First 100 Camper at the Pittsburgh Location on McKnight Road! I didn’t have a name but instead, a number. #15 to be exact.
Let me give you the details on the event because it will most likely give you a more positive outlook than your previous reservations of attending these type of events like myself.
Here’s some history. I desperately wanted to be a part of the Grand Opening for our very first Chick-Fil-A in the North Hills. Why? Because it was a dream of mine for years to have a CFA close to our house. I have lived in Pittsburgh all of my life and always had to travel a distance to buy a Chick-Fil-A sandwich. Yes, there was a CFA in our mall for several years but the inconvenience when you are in a rush made it more difficult. Plus, I travel a lot on Sundays and fast food is a convenience but as most of you know, they are closed on Sundays (which I fully support).
So, when I heard from my favorite Ross Township Commissioner Jeremy Shaffer on Facebook that we were going to have a CFA in our town, I was thrilled.
It all started the day before CFA’s Grand Opening Eve. I kept noticing in my news feed on Facebook the 100 Camp Out tradition coming up and knew I had to make a decision that day whether to attend. The problem was I had a huge tent and was concerned it would be too big for a small parking lot and a huge crowd. Plus, as I mentioned, I’m not a fan of crowds or long lines. However, on a whim, I just decided to go for it and not fear such silly thoughts.
I ordered a tent from Walmart and justified the expense for $35 because if I didn’t get the chance to participate, I would return the tent. If I did end up as one of the 100, it would be a small investment for winning 52 juicy and delicious CFA chicken sandwich meals (estimated value of $316)!
The kids and I scrambled to pack our blankets, snacks, water and toiletries. During our packing, I warned the kids a couple of times that we may be sitting for several hours in the hot sun. I didn’t want to hear any complaining but they enthusiastically talked about camping in the parking lot and eating yummy food so I knew they were ready too.
Our first errand of the day early on the First 100 Eve’s Eve was running to Walmart a half hour away and pick up the tent. We ran in and out quickly at the Order Pick Up area so we could get home and finish packing. Wow, that was an easy one! Or so I thought. I get home and decide to pull out the tent to test it, avoiding complications later.
Uh Oh. It’s missing the canopy! I need the canopy to hold up the tent!
The canopy was pictured as part of the tent but I didn’t read the description well enough to notice “Canopy not included”. Oops. I debated as to whether we should even go now. I didn’t want to run out to Walmart again! I contemplated next steps as I stared at the wall for a few minutes and wondered…was this important enough to make it work? Did I really want to go through all of this trouble for 52 sandwich meals?!!! Yep. Still worth it. I got online again, ordered a different tent (saved $5!) and gathered the kids again for another road trip!
All went well this time. I picked up the tent with fast Order Pick Up service, ran home and finished dinner then onto packing. The kids wanted to stay up all night so I reluctantly said yes realizing that they probably would not make it to 5 in the am. I was right. By 2am, they were sound asleep.
I hit the snooze button at 4:45am. Are you kidding me? I asked myself again, is it really critical for me to attend? I told my kids we would go, I can’t back down now.
We dragged ourselves into the van and drove down McKnight Road in the North Hills to the new Chick-Fil-A. As I was about to turn in, there was a police vehicle in the lot so I hesitated and missed my turn. Why wasn’t anyone in the parking lot except a cop car? Did I have the right day?
I thought about what to do next and decided to park in a nearby home store. There was someone else right beside me with the same idea. Then, just a minute or two later, I noticed from a distance another car racing into CFA’s parking lot only to come back out quickly. They arrived shortly thereafter right next to our vehicle. I had lots of company now.
I rolled down the window and asked if they were part of the “CFA” crowd. Confirming my suspicions, I found out that they were not letting anyone in the parking lot until the employees arrived. There had been security at the new store since 11pm the night before to ensure that they were no solicitors in the parking lot before 6am.
Great. I could have slept in an extra hour.
Anyway, we waited a few more minutes and then tried again. This time, It was actually perfect timing as I pulled into one of the last parking spaces as it is a fairly small parking lot! And, I pulled right next to a friend’s friend’s friend and now we are all great friends thanks to CFA’s parking lot!
After catching up with my newly found friend, we were summoned off the parking lot and followed the crowd to find out our next steps from the CFA employees. We got the run down of rules from a vivacious CFA rep named Carrie including the “confirming your zip code eligibility” lecture and then the additional rules also available online. We were then separated in lines of 25s. Turns out there were only about 30 participants!
We were lined up outside and then given a number leading us into the store while they gave us liability forms to sign. Carrie, the store host, made sure we were aware that we could not leave the premise once we parked our car at a designated area. She also firmly stated that guests could only be 5 or older and up to 5 guests were allowed (children). No exceptions.
While waiting for my number to be called, my “long live Chick-Fil-A” friends and I scoped out the area from our seats glancing out of the window, discussing the potential areas to park our tents. Initially, I announced the shady area looked enticing but after my friend Rebecca’s idea of putting our tent up in an elevated area where water would not linger (if it rained) turned out to be an excellent idea. The downside was it would be directly in the sun. However, it turned out to be a great plan.
One by one Carrie called our numbers and we signed our life away. After registering, we were able to collect our items from our vehicles and bring them to the parking lot.
They gave us a sign to put in our car with our number (remember, #15!) and then my new friends and I drove to a deserted parking lot a few yards away. The fun was just about to begin!
My kids had stayed behind with our tent and packed materials in the CFA parking lot. When I arrived a couple of minutes later, they had already solicited two gentlemen to help them put up the tent. Nice guys! So thankful for them. One guy was named Chris (there were several people named Chris in the bunch) but cannot recall the other guy’s name. He’ll be in a picture later if you want to tell me who he is!
Anywho, they got the tent up within a few minutes and we quickly put most of sleeping blankets inside the tent and organized our remaining bags. We set up our chairs in front of the tent, grabbed a drink CFA provided (water or tea) using our new plastic “CFA First 100” cups, and sat down enjoying the moment. The weather was just perfect. Hot Tip: Don’t forget your sunscreen!
Within a few minutes, several of us gathered around to play a game “Ticket to Ride”. I observed the first round as I had not played before and was concerned I’d be running around with the kids. The morning seemed to be the longest time of waiting so it was a good time to play a “bored” game (it gets rid of the boredom blues).
However, once breakfast rolled around around 9ish our day went too quickly. The games began and we were on track for having a great time! We were served chicken biscuits and a drink for breakfast.
There were about 30 of us and teams were formed in 5’s. Questions were asked and a rep from each team gathered up front to see who had the greatest score or number. For example, whomever had the highest number of miles on their vehicle on their team came up to the front and one by one he’d ask us our answer. I thought I had that one in the bag as my van had 177,000 miles but someone beat me at 286,000 miles! I guess its time to stop complaining about my “old” vehicle and be more appreciative!
Lunch was served after noon and we enjoyed a #1 meal with any choice of drink (besides lemonade). It was delicious and hit the spot as most of us had been up for hours and we were hungry!
Soon afterwards games and prizes continued as the day wore on. A rain shower decided to crash our party so CFA allowed us to come in and get dry. Thankfully, our tent held up well and we only had wet children from running back and forth.
We had a close family, the Chens, come join us later, which gave the kids even more excitement in their day. What a great experience this had been for all of us!
Dinner came and went quickly as we gobbled down chicken strips, chips and a drink. The time was now going so fast that we actually didn’t want the day to end.
Throughout the entire day, they sporatically had us line up in groups of 25 to confirm we were still on the premise. As the day wore on, the numbers climbed slowly and additional lines were formed.
Our host Rick was fabulous and kept us happy and entertained. We got to know him while inside the store waiting for the rain to stop and found out he was not employed by CFA but worked for a company that partnered with them. They sent him traveling 2 days a week since there were Grand Openings in the United States once a week! He had a new 5 month old baby at home.
The host wrapped up the night with a Lip Sync and Dance-a-thon before the Penguin game started on the big screen. They handed out Pittsburgh Penguin towels and signs as an extra special treat.
Around 8pm, we gathered around the big screen to watch the Penguin game. During intermission, we had an “Oreo eating from your forehead” contest and Penguin Trivia! It was a cherry on top to have the Penguins win!
After the Penguins won, it was about 11pm and everyone was dragging at this point. It was time for bed so we all started heading towards our tent.
Ah…not so fast. The announcer grabbed the mike and said it was time for our last line up until the morning! The good news was that they were handing out ice cream. The kids loved it but me, not so much. I was ready for bed and not interested in a sugar rush as I had a hard enough time falling asleep on concrete.
Back to our tents we went after brushing our teeth. The kids giggled for a few minutes as we annoyingly listened to someone playing the guitar but surprisingly, the girls fell asleep within a half hour. The boys were in another tent with Mrs. Chen and found out later they fell asleep right away. Not me of course. I actually got my Kindle Fire Tablet out and watched Forensic Files thanks to finding an open wifi connection with Xfinity! Within a couple of hours, I was cozy and fast asleep.
I got up a little early around 4:30am to avoid any lines in the bathroom. On the way inside the restaurant, we noticed the parking lot got a bit more crowded and looked more like a crime scene with all of the bodies covered with blankets on the hard pavement! We found out later that people were still coming in up until 4am trying to get in before the grand prize was passed out!
The same guy announcing the late night line up also relunctantly announced at 4:45am on the speaker it was time to get up and get our items packed and organized. Within a half hour, we were already lined up for the last time to claim our GRAND prize!
They handed out HUGE t-shirts and paper hats while confirming our numbers. It was cold so we pulled them over our sweatshirts and jackets. There were more than 100 people at this point. Several alternates were able to get in on the action but I do not believe all 10 of them made it. It does make you wonder if it’s worth the risk showing up at 2am in the am and hang out for a couple of hours until 5:15am!
There was a camera crew, a large cow (costume), and the owner of the Chick-Fil-A Mike Ortmann who ended up handing out the 52 free #1 meal cards to each one of us! What a nice surprise! He was the previous owner of the CFA in Ross Park Mall.
It was a great time and my family would highly recommend joining the camp out event #CFAFIRST100 if you get the opportunity. We were out of there by 6am in the am so we had been there officially for 24 hours. As I mentioned, the day went quickly as they fed and entertained us for the majority of the time but thankfully there was some down time as well for socializing and quiet time. If your kids have been bugging you to go camping, this is a great way to be in a safe environment, get fed for free, win prizes and 52 free meals for the entire year! It’s a WIN WIN if you can take the day off.
Lastly, there are some caveots to the “CFA First 10o” card. You can only use it one time per transaction and no substitutions. My card did say redeemable at the McKnight Road location so there is no guarantee that it will work at other Chick-Fil-As. I have not tried it at any other CFAs yet. Also, the CFA cashier told me that you can only use it once a week but it does not say this on the card. It does state it in the rules online.
For additional information, please click here to go directly to the offical Chick-Fil-A website. I’m looking forward to hearing from you on your experiences as well! Please drop me a note down below. Thank you for taking the time to read this and hope to see you at a Chick-Fil-A!