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Costas wild game feed draws 1,600
Brad Inglis works on cooking elk and wild pig on the grill during Friday’s 27th annual Costa Wild Game Feed. - photo by HIME ROMERO
It was Manteca’s wild game feast of all feasts to behold for the 27th year at the Manteca Camper and Trailer facility Friday generating donations going directly to families in need during the Christmas season.

Launched by the Joe Costa family years ago as an effort to help an employee’s family devastated by a health crisis, the feed has continued to escalate over the years from its humble beginning to one that draws some 1,600 people.

For the last 27 years the wild animals bagged by Mantecans have been grilled and served to the community asking only for a donation for the meal that includes elk, venison, halibut, cod, salmon, duck, goose and bear.

Brothers Jimmie, John and Jessie Costa once again held the event with a cadre of friends who set places in the trailer facility showroom for 450 diners to sit and enjoy camaraderie between hunters, fishermen, businessmen and women in the community.

It all started in the Costa’s automotive repair facility located on Button Avenue east of Highway 99 adjacent to Vern’s AAA Towing. Subsequent wild game fund raising dinners were held at Vern’s and at Ron Long’s shop across the common driveway.

Next it moved to the original Manteca trailer facility on East Yosemite before moving across the street to its present site of the modern trailer and camper business showroom.

“It’s good for the community to see people they haven’t seen for a year,” Manteca Trailer co-owner Trina Chavez said at the beginning of the feed Friday.  
As for the set up and tear down, Chavez said it is amazing to see workers come in so quickly and to tear down their large grill trailers by 6 p.m.

The overcast day with no rain in the forecast was perfect for setting trays of meat and fish out next to the grills on a truck’s tailgate.  A small army of chefs kept the cooked entrée items on the move as the lunch line circled out the front door of the showroom and wound through trailers parked to the west of the building.

There was no charge for the lunch but a $10 donation was suggested near the beginning of the buffet tables that included salads and homemade desserts.  The donations last year amounted to some $8,000.

Mike McCall worked one of the grills saying it was his second year at the feed.  “I saved a vacation day to be here – it’s a good time,” he said.

Retired Manteca police detective Rick Adams was tending bar, handing out glasses of beer at the end of the buffet line recognizing most everyone who came through.  He said his wife Julie prepared an elk hamburger casserole especially for the event.

He said they had just prepared 250 pounds of elk grinding it into hamburger and packaging it into smaller quantities.

Adams said that he and three friends, including his father Carrol Adams, butchered numerous  game animals for the feed.  The team included Rich Moffat, Jim Costa, and Larry Mendoza.

The preparation work  took place in Jim Costa’s garage where the men made use of a 10 by 10 foot walk-in cold box where they had six elk, two wild pigs and 10 deer.  

“We do an elk a night, cut and wrap our own meat,” he said.  The animals were taken in Colorado, Montana and Nevada.  The deer came from New Mexico.  Adams added that they first field dress the animals before putting them in Jim’s walk-in box to age for 14 days at 39 degrees temperature.

Dave Garza, of JK Automotive, had three of his crew at the lunch.  He chuckled saying he got away from the business during the noon hour by having a friend watch the office and the phone was forwarded to his cell.  Garza said the elk he had was really tender adding that everything else was all mixed together on his plate.

Ken Higgins was busy getting  goose and duck poppers prepared and on the grill  that was seen as a favorite.  He said it was comprised of a half jalapeño pepper, cream cheese and covered with a piece of duck or goose with bacon wrapped around the outside.  When the bacon became crisp, he knew they were done and ready to eat, he said.

For his day job Higgins raises alfalfa on 30 acres on South Manteca Road.  To cook those round golf ball sized delicacies, Higgins used a stainless steel mobile barbecue with three units – two propane and one charcoal.  It was built by his son Scott Higgins.

The trailer offered enough cooking area to cook a whole pig, he said.  It was his second year at the Costa feed.  A retired engineer he had cooked for years using Dutch ovens.

Retired San Francisco 49ers football great R.C. Owens joined friends at the game feed saying it was great to know the different people who are foundation behind the fund raiser and who do such a great job in the community effort.

“To not be a hunter and enjoy that food is really great,” he added.

In addition to playing for the San Francisco 49’ers from 1957-1961, Owens also played for the Baltimore Colts in 1961, 1962, and 1963.  His last four years was with the New York Giants football club.

Jim Costa voiced his appreciation for having the Manteca Trailer building to hold the event.  He said the location makes it all possible.

Tim Hunter, with the game feed team since its inception, said the best thing the group has done in keeping up with the crowd was to buy 15 heated chafing servers to be used in the buffet presentations.