Hundreds line up at Fresno Chick-fil-A

Pam Morring and her sons drove more than 100 miles from Paso Robles to show their support for Chick-fil-A.Pam Morring and her sons drove more than 100 miles from Paso Robles to show their support for Chick-fil-A.Hundreds of customers waited in line both on foot and in their autos at the Chick-fil-A restaurant in North Fresno Wednesday, many of whom said they came out to show support for the company president’s free speech rights.

Families from Visalia and Squaw Valley were among those waiting outside of the restaurant at Blackstone and Nees avenues to participate in what former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee deemed “Chick-fil-A Appreciation Day.” Pam Morring drove all the way from Paso Robles after reading an announcement on Facebook.

“It’s a fun drive to come out here for something like this,” said Morring, who made the trip with her sons Jeremy and Jesse-Ray. “We’d drive to the ends of the Earth.”

Chick-fil-A president Dan Cathy said last month that his company supported “The biblical definition of a family.” Gay rights groups and others have responded with calls for boycotts, and Gay Fresno is organizing a protest at the Blackstone and Nees location that is scheduled for Friday afternoon.

Gay organizations have been at odds with Cathy since January 2011, when the WinShape Foundation, a charity owned by Chick-fil-A, stated that it does not accept same-sex couples at their marriage retreats. Mayors in San Francisco, Boston and Chicago have made statements indicating they would block the restaurant chain from opening in their cities.

Morring said that she has been a Chick-fil-A patron for more than 20 years, going back to when she lived in the South, and that Cathy’s comments and the controversy that followed were a topic of discussion at her church.

“We decided to drive down here and show our support,” Morring said.

Ted and Bobbi Craven drove from Squaw Valley to show their support for Chick-fil-A and Cathy's right to freedom of speech.

“I think it’s really horrible what they’re doing to them,” Bobbi said, regarding gay rights groups calling for a boycott. “It’s so hot and people are still standing out here.”

A number of umbrellas were visible among those who waited in line, and a Chick-fil-A employee offered cups of water as customers sought to deal with the scorching heat.

Troy and Sheryl Matthews of Fresno had been at the restaurant since 11 a.m. Sheryl said that while the couple, along with their son, Ethan, were standing in line to have lunch, several customers were overcome by the 100-plus degree heat.

“We saw three people pass out from heat exhaustion,” Sheryl said. “We said, ‘Let’s get out here and support this fully.”

Troy Matthews made several trips to the store to buy cases of bottled water and ice to fill a large cooler. A nearby customer estimated that Troy handed out “about 500 bottles” of water by 3 p.m.