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Chick-fil-A opens its newest restaurant in Ashland on Thursday

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Ashland’s first stand-alone Chick-fil-A restaurant doesn’t open until tomorrow, but 180 people already lined up today and some plan to camp out tonight for a chance to win free meals for a year.

The first 100 adults through the door when the restaurant opens Thursday, May 30, at 6 a.m. will get a one-year supply of Chick-fil-A meals (52 meals consisting of a chicken sandwich, medium fries and a drink.) According to Check-fil-A, that’s a total of nearly $30,000 in free food.

The “first 100” has become a cornerstone event for every new Chick-fil-A opening since 2003. The restaurant, located at 815 England St. in Ashland, will employ 60 people.

In the past 10 years, the Atlanta-based restaurant chain said in a news release that it has given away more than $18 million in free food at nearly 700 grand openings.

When there are more than 100 people in line 24 hours before a restaurant’s opening, as there were this morning, the 100 spots are determined by a raffle, with those selected needing to camp out to secure their spot for the next day's opening, said Cindi Pickett, a spokeswoman for the company. "We've got people from nine states and D.C. out there," Pickett said, adding that one person was a 92-year-old man from Virginia who was camping out for the first time.

For the campers, Chick-fil-A hosts what it calls a parking lot party, providing security, entertainment and food to fans.

Ashland’s Chick-fil-A location brings the total number of restaurants in Virginia to 106. The new restaurant is the 18th restaurant in metro Richmond in addition to two licensee locations.

It will have indoor seating for 136 and an additional 12 seats outside. In addition to its signature chicken sandwiches, Free Wi-Fi and a new line of salads also will be available.

Chick-fil-A founder Truett Cathy first began serving his boneless breast-of-chicken sandwich at the Dwarf Grill, which opened in Hapeville, Ga., in 1946. It was the signature menu item when the first Chick-fil-A restaurant opened in 1967 and remains the centerpiece of the menu as the chain has grown to 1,717 restaurants in 38 states and Washington D.C., with annual sales of more than $4.6 billion.

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