Chick-fil-A Appreciation Day Sees Massive Turnout

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Thanks to the recent controversy over Chick-fil-A's support of traditional marriage, the fast food chain has become the country's new symbol for support of freedom of speech and freedom of religion.

From all appearances, Wednesday was a record-setting day for Chick-fil-A, with fans from Washington, D.C. to Texas and California flocking to their local restaurants as part of "Chick-fil-A Appreciation Day."

"This country was founded on religious liberties and freedoms," Chick-fil-A supporter Cathy Smith said. "And they have a right to have a value system that they consider important to them."

Many Chick-fil-A fans were incensed recently when several big city mayors, including Chicago's Rahm Emanuel, attacked Chick-fil-A President Dan Cathy for speaking in favor of traditional marriage.

"Chick-fil-A's values are not Chicago values," Emanuel declared. "They're not respectful of our residents, neighbors and family members, and if you're going to be part of the Chicago community, you should reflect the Chicago values."

The mayor's comments sparked a backlash, motivating people to come out across the country on Wednesday -- and especially in Chicago.

"I think what the mayor is doing to Chick-fil-A is wrong," one Chick-fil-A supporter in Chicago said. "I think in this economy, any time you would say to any business, 'Don't open here,' you've got to be out of your mind."

"But to condemn a person because of his personal religious beliefs, to condemn an entire company because their founder is a Christian is just wrong, it's wrong," she said. "It's against the First Amendment. It's against America."

At some locations, like the Chick-fil-A restaurant in Hollywood, protestors marched in support of gay marriage.

But at most restaurants the day was marked by frenetic sales activity and fans waiting patiently in line to show their support and eat their favorite food.

"My co-worker and I came down to get lunch for everybody because we support the values of Dan Cathy and Chick-fil-A," Jo Joynes said.

"Right now, I believe that we're being pushed to a wall that either we stand up and speak to what we believe as well as what they want to believe, their choice as well as our choice," Chick-fil-A supporter James Ellis said.

Thousands of fans posted comments and pictures online, documenting a business day unlike any other for the fast food chain.

Chick-fil-A has made a point to say it's not an official sponsor of the day and won't post sales numbers. But this tweet from Pastor Rick Warren gave a clue to the size and scope of Wednesday's turnout.

"Dan Cathy just called me," Warren tweeted. "Chick-fil-A has already set a world record today, with seven more hours to go in the West."

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Heather Sells

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