Udder commitment to free food - East Valley Tribune: Get Out

Udder commitment to free food

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Posted: Friday, July 11, 2008 11:21 pm | Updated: 10:19 pm, Fri Oct 7, 2011.

Dawn Hedrick remembers her first time as a cow."You get out of the car, walk up to the restaurant ... and everyone is staring at you," the Mesa resident recalls. "Last year, my girls were almost fetal, they were so embarrassed. You basically walk into the place dying of embarrassment.

VIDEO: Dawn Hedrick and herd suit up for free chicken

Dawn Hedrick remembers her first time as a cow."You get out of the car, walk up to the restaurant ... and everyone is staring at you," the Mesa resident recalls. "Last year, my girls were almost fetal, they were so embarrassed. You basically walk into the place dying of embarrassment.

"But once in, you're on ... an embarrassment high. You're riding it, now. I told the girls to work it. Go up to the counter and tell 'em: 'I'm in the mooooood for Combo Meal Six.'"

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Friday evening, while you were commuting back to the safety of your home, Hedrick, her friends and her family, were out on the embarrassment frontier. Dressed up as Holsteins, they gathered in the far reaches of a Mesa parking lot, then turned their udders east, stampeding a Chick-fil-A restaurant.

Why did they do it? For you, and me, and everyone shackled by conformity. They did it for America, where a child can still be anything - even if that thing has four stomachs and a cud. They did it for anyone who has ever dreamed of bucking the status quo!

And they did it for free chicken.

BULLISH ON CHICKEN

Friday was Chick-fil-A's fourth annual Cow Appreciation Day - the day when the chicken franchise honors the cows that anchor their advertising. (You've seen them: black and white cows, holding badly lettered signs that say: "Eat Mor Chik'n.") On this day, Chick-fil-A offers free food to anyone dressing like a cow: a sandwich for a single item, a full meal for an entire suit.

Who is bullish enough to answer this cattle call?

"We're expecting about 30 people," Hedrick says.

The costumes are more iconic than realistic. Amber Ashton, a 10-year-old niece, insists the secret of cow apparel is "black and white eye makeup." Tanner Hedrick, also 10, sports a spotted cape and a simple credo ("I like getting free meals.")

Sidney Hedrick, 11, accepts the burdens of going bovine: "It'll be easier this year," she insists. "It's a bigger herd. You have to stay in the middle of the herd."

Unusual behavior? Yes, but psychologists and dairy farmers shouldn't read too much into it.

"It's just fun," Sue Brunner, Hedrick's co-worker, says. "Sometimes you just need to be crazy."

And how often is craziness rewarded with chicken?

She laughs, "Well, that's the best part."

RUNNING OF THE COWS

At 5:30 p.m. Friday, the sun is setting low but the bar has been set high at the Chick-fil-A on Stapley Drive just south of U.S. 60.

"We had 60 (cow) people by the time I left for lunch," marketing director Sharon Harfst says.

A man, in a full-blown cow suit, is working the crowd inside. "But he's a paid cow," she explains. "He's a pro."

Then out of the prairie they come.

There's something majestic about watching a herd come in at sunset. Even when the herd arrives in vans and SUVs; even when it consists of bovine bridesmaids, baseball cows, oddly speckled people and one farmer who may just be a local.

Still, it's stirring when Hedrick, dressed as a Cow Bride, herds them all together and utters the ceremonial: "Men, put in your nose rings!"

Their stampede goes over big inside the Chick-fil-A. The store is awash in black and white, and the crowd scene that follows - part cattle drive, part wedding reception, part photo op - could be called inspiring, if it wasn't so very, very odd.

By 6:05, they're done with the cow thing. It's time for free food.

"Twenty-three people? That's a pretty good herd," Hedrick says. She isn't counting the seven who came late, or the two elderly ladies in civilian clothes, standing aghast back by the wastebaskets.

"I'm sorry," one of them whispers to the other. "I didn't know it would be a big ... cow party!"

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