It was part Black Friday, part Woodstock. Modern America on a weeknight, squatting over a cement slab across the street from a mall -- all for the love of fast food.
But oh how they love those sandwiches.
As most of the tired, smelly, smiling campers stumbled off to their tents and sleeping bags not long after midnight, Tim Glass, 20, and Eric Lemoine, 24, were standing near the ropes marking off the designated camping area. Lemoine, a cook at the bowling alley a few hundred feet away, was wearing an orange T-shirt, gray shorts, and tennis shoes. Glass was wearing a white T-shirt, jeans, and no shoes. Both men, Pompano residents, arrived before 4 a.m. the previous night, and both were among the 100 selected to receive the free meals. They said they'd had about two hours of broken sleep, roasting under the South Florida sun.
"This is our first time at one of these," Lemoine told me. "It's been fun. So worth it."
"Definitely worth it," Glass agreed. "I'm not sure I'd camp for more than a day, but the time out here has been a lot of fun. Insane but fun."
Several of the college-aged people here said they would surely go through their 52 free meal coupons in far fewer than 365 days, and they say the taste of the Chick-Fil-A fried chicken is the primary reason. "It's so moist and delicious," said Terri Stanier, 22, from Miami. "It's... it's... it's Chick-Fil-A. There's no other way to describe it."
Lemoine tried: "It's peppery but sweet, with a taste of country."
Lemoine and Glass brought a TV, an X-Box, an extension cord, a tent, and some snacks. When the TV stopped working earlier in the day, Lemoine's mother brought them another one.
"Nobody's allowed to leave," Lemoine said. "If you cross this line, you're disqualified." He pointed to the bouncing ball in the four-square game. "If that ball bounces away, they can't go get it."