Chick-fil-A supporters are flocking the chicken chain's restaurants even as the company continues to be criticized for an executive taking a public position against same-sex marriage.
Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, a Baptist minister, declared Wednesday "Chick-fil-A Appreciation Day" -- and supporters headed the call.
The Bay Area's sole Chick-fil-A location in Fairfield was swamped with customers, with a line of people snaking outside the restaurant and around the corner.
"We are slammed out the door," said a woman who answered the phone about 11 a.m. at the franchise at 1750 Travis Blvd. Waits reached as long as two hours at the franchise, KGO-TV reported, and the restaurant closed early after running out of food.
"I think we're all tired of having someone else's values rammed down our throats," Napa resident Linda Stevens told KGO at the Fairfield store.
Still, the "Appreciation Day," which boasts more than 610,600 "attendees" nationwide on its Facebook page, spurred backlash from those who support same-sex marriage rights and stirred counterprotests throughout the Bay Area.
The Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation, or GLAAD, encouraged counteractions Wednesday. An online campaign is under way that suggests donating $6.50 -- the approximate cost of a meal at Chick-fil-A -- to an LGBT-friendly organization.
In San Jose, about 15 protesters showed up Wednesday afternoon at a Chick-fil-A location on Headquarters Drive -- even though the restaurant won't officially open until Aug. 16.
Max Gustavson, who organized the protest, said he intends to rally more people for a return when the restaurant opens.
Wednesday's protesters wore purple and rainbow clothing to show their support for the gay community.
Gustavson said he wants people to "start taking a look at what they are supporting."
"People say, 'Oh, one person buying something from somewhere they don't support ... oh that doesn't make a difference,'" he said. "Which is not true. It adds up. Even if it's not a lot of people you can still make a statement."
In the East Bay, a Concord man announced Wednesday that he is planning to protest the scheduled Sept. 20 opening of a Chick-fil-A restaurant at 2750 N. Main St. in Walnut Creek.
Rik Newby is organizing the protest mainly through Facebook. Already more than 200 people have signed on for the all-day action.
"I don't want to see anyone go out of business, but you have to ask yourself if you are OK with a company in your backyard that promotes an anti-gay agenda," Newby said.
In Mountain View, where Chick-fil-A plans to open a new location, opponents were hoping to block the restaurant there over zoning issues. They filed an appeal last month of a zoning administrator's recent approval of four permits that will allow the Atlanta-based company to build a 4,200-square-foot drive-thru eatery at 1962 El Camino Real.
Chick-fil-A President Dan Cathy told the Baptist Press last month that the Atlanta-based company was "guilty as charged" for backing "the biblical definition of a family."
A spokeswoman for the Rev. Billy Graham says the 93-year-old evangelist ate a Chick-fil-A lunch to show his support of the restaurant, including a chicken sandwich and waffle fries, at his North Carolina home Wednesday.
Gay rights groups and others answered with calls for boycotts.
On July 26, San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee waded into the debate, writing on Twitter that he was "very disappointed" in Cathy's views, adding that the closest Chick-fil-A was 40 miles from his city and "I strongly recommend that they not try to come any closer."
Opponents of Cathy's stance have planned "Kiss Mor Chiks" for Friday, asking people of the same sex to show up at Chick-fil-A locations and kiss each other.
The Associated Press, Bay City News and staff writers Sean Maher, Eric Kurhi and Molly Vorwerck contributed to this report.