A group of 96 Chick-fil-A enthusiasts formed a tent city on a cold and blustery morning Wednesday outside the popular restaurant chain's new location in Vernon Hills in anticipation of its grand opening -- and a year's worth of free meals.
The first 100 customers in line when the restaurant opens Thursday morning will receive one Chick-fil-A meal per week for the next 12 months, a prize worth spending a chilly day and night in a parking lot for fans like Jacob Schmanke of Elgin and his brother, Josh Schmanke of Aurora.
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"I was here right around 5 this morning. Free Chick-fil-A is the reason we come," Schmanke said as he stood bundled in the wind. "We are praying for sunshine all the way through. It's worth it. It doesn't matter how cold it is, Chick-fil-A is the best."
During the day, Chick-fil-A provided free meals at breakfast, lunch and dinner for the participants as well as sponsored games, contests and entertainment.
The fast food restaurant at 701 N. Milwaukee Ave. is scheduled to open at 6 a.m. Thursday.
Chicago Bears' rookie linebacker Khaseem Greene is scheduled to be a part of the grand opening festivities and sign autographs for fans from 4 to 6 p.m. Friday. Later that day, the restaurant will sponsor the Mini Milkshake Bash for area high school students from 8 to 10 p.m.