Jim Costa was in a festive mood on Friday.
He wasn’t wearing a Santa hat. He wasn’t drinking hot chocolate or munching on a candy cane.
But what he was doing was overseeing a massive community fundraiser known as Costa’s Wild Game Feed and Christmas Party that raises money for less fortunate families in the community so that everybody can have a chance to enjoy Christmas.
When he and his family held the first feed more than three decades ago he had no idea that it would blossom into what it has become – an event that brings people from out-of-state every year to reunite with friends under a common goal of celebrating the most important aspects of Christmas.
And he couldn’t have been happier to have friends willing to go out of their way to stage the 32nd Wild Game Feed that was expected to draw upwards of 1,000 people.
“Before we started today I gathered everybody up and brought them all together and told them that they’re the reason that this thing keeps going,” Costa said. “They’re good, god-fearing people and if we didn’t have their support in this it wouldn’t be what it is today and it wouldn’t be able to help out as many families as it does.
“The support we get from the community and from the volunteers is and always has been strong. We’re thankful that there are people out there that care.”
It’s also the place where sportsmen come together and celebrate the fruit of their bounty.
While other community fundraisers stick with more traditional Christmas dishes, Costa’s offers a unique delicacy that can’t be bought in very many stores – wild game.
As part of the tradition, hunters and fishermen from the massive network of sportsmen that Costa is a part of reserve a portion of their take for the annual feed in order to make sure there’s never a shortage of food.
Groups from Ceres and Stockton have been regulars for years by helping to man the grills that they bring, and Fagundes Meats and Catering owner Frank Teixeira didn’t just lend the use of his massive tow-behind barbecue, but also showed up himself to help cook.
Then there are the volunteers like Robin Taberna and his brother Tommy who welcomed their cousin from Fresno to join them this year in making burger patties and steaks from antelope, elk, wild boar, deer and anything else that somebody brought.
“We’ve been doing this together for about 20 years now and we’ll keep coming back for as long as we can,” Taberna said. “You see all of these guys come together and it’s all to help people during the Christmas holiday. It gives back to the community that we all love and that’s so important, especially right now.
“I’m just proud to help where I can because I know how much this helps people.”