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Nile Garden: Manteca king of crab feeds
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Once upon a time, the annual crab feed hosted by the Community Club of Nile Garden School was such a hot ticket in town it was sold out long before the day of the event.

For many years from the time it was launched exactly 41 years ago this month, the Nile Garden crab feed enjoyed somewhat of a monopoly of this winter crab-feast fund-raiser.

As Nile Garden alumnus and now principal of Lathrop Elementary School David Silveira puts it, “For years it was very difficult to get a ticket because the crab feed sold out every year.”

In recent years, however, many organizations recognized the popularity and profitability of this money-making venture and immediately jumped onto the crab-feed bandwagon. One of the most recent groups to join this lucrative fund-raising venture is the St. Anthony of Padua School which offered its first cracked-crab feast for a fee last year.

Along with similar events sponsored by the likes of the Portuguese MRPS (Manteca-Ripon Pentecost Society) organization, the Manteca-Lathrop Boys and Girls Clubs, and the Manteca emergency responders group, among others, every weekend from the first of the year through early February in the Family City has a crab feed on tap.

So for the first time in decades, Nile Garden has had to work harder to achieve the goal of another sell-out winter fund-raiser. And that’s what Tina English, current president of the Nile Garden Community Club, is hoping will happen despite the crowded competition. She said she hopes they are going to sell all 500 tickets for this weekend’s fun and feed event. And if they don’t sell all of the tickets in advance, they will have these available for purchase at the door, she said.

Plenty of fun and food, plus dancing & raffle prizes at MRPS

 The Nile Garden Crab feed will be held on Saturday, Jan. 22, at the MRPS Hall on Grant Street in downtown Manteca, the first block north of Yosemite Avenue. Donation is $37.50 per person, and doors will open at 6 p.m. followed by dinner at 7 o’clock and then dancing afterwards. In addition to the cracked crab, there will be a baked potato, salad, bread, and your choice of red or white wine.

English said there will be a no-host bar open throughout the evening as well, which is why this event is being billed as “for adults only.”

“You have to be 21 (to attend) because there’s a no-host bar,” she said.

Several lucky guests will even get to go home with some big-ticket raffle prizes, many of which are courtesy of the Nile Garden students themselves and their parents.

“The classrooms bring in donations for a specific theme (such as BBQ, Family Game Night, etc.) and those donations are put into beautiful baskets that are raffled off,” explained Silveira whose wife, Stacie, is coordinating this year’s crab feed.

Some of the donated items that will be added to the baskets include ski lift tickets, Great America/waterslides tickets which will be all bundled up in a San Jose weekend package, massages from Kathy Rich Massage, a photo session from Leonard Photography in Manteca, and a wine tasting tour, among many others.

All proceeds go back to the school, students and teachers

 All proceeds from the crab feed is funneled back to the school, the teachers and students. English has a long laundry list of the many projects and programs that they support for the benefit of Nile Garden, its teachers and students. Among them:

•The annual ice cream social for the Honor Roll students.

•Students’ annual field trip to the Oakland Zoo. “We pay for the entire second-grade class to go to the field trip in the spring. It is during that time of year when they are studying about the environment, so that ties in with the animals (at the zoo),” English explained.

•Science Camp for fifth graders. Since this annual program has become more and more expensive and harder for parents to afford, “we end up helping that program, too,” she said.

•Reimbursement of up to $250 for every Nile Garden school teacher’s classroom expenses. “Each of the teachers receive up to $250 a year to spend in the classrooms that probably would normally come out of their pocket,” English said

•New carpeting installed in the kindergarten classes. This project was done last year.

Despite the increasing competition in crab-feed fund-raising dollars in the community, “the crab feed usually does well for us,” an optimistic English reported.

That’s not the only source of funds that go in the Community Club’s coffers, however. English said they also generate some funds from their annual pumpkin sale during Halloween with the colorful gourds generously donated every year by Fonseca Farms, and the spell-a-thon held every year where students “earn” money by collecting sponsors for every word they spell correctly.

A multi-generational event that transcends four decades

Despite the low attendance in recent year’s crab feed events, which Silveira attributes as partly due to the fact Nile Garden’s population has decreased from over 800 at one time to about 500 today, this winter fund-raiser still attracts a lot of faithful attendees.

“Many of the people who attend have been attending for five or more years. The children and grandchildren of the people who originally started it 41 years ago are still attending,” Silveira pointed out.

Among this group of loyal Nile Garden crab feed supporters is the Bordenkircher family. Donna Bordenkircher and her late husband, Dale, (at one time they were part owners and managers of the now-defunct Ace Hardware Store in downtown Manteca which is now the furniture business next to German Glas Werks) were part of that group that was responsible for the maiden launch of the crab feed. The mother of three daughters - one of them, Lori Fishburn, now teaches at Nile Garden - and grandmother of five is still actively involved in the fund-raiser that she helped start.

Bordenkircher remembered how it all began. Prior to their discovery of the crab feed, she said the Nile Garden Community Club held annual pancake breakfast fund-raisers. But that only brought in $200 to $300 to their club coffers, she said.

Then, one day, Raymond and Darlene Quaresma happened to attend a crab feed fund-raiser out of town and found out for themselves that this was a lucrative event.

“I remember, it was their idea to try it,” Bordenkircher said of the suggestion presented by the  Quaresmas at a Community Club meeting.

And, as the popular saying goes, the rest is history.

There were other families who got the crab-feed ball rolling. They included Don and Shirley Gallagher, Tom and Dianne Hetaguard, and Sherry Jamero.

A strong sense of traditio at Nile Garden Elementary

With such factors as ticket costs, stiffer competition and the decrease in Nile Garden’s school population impacting the crab feed fund-raiser, what lies in the future for this community club project?

Some of the organizers admit that “there has been talk of this being the last Nile Garden Crab Feed.”

There are also talks about the Community Club getting out of the crab-feed race all together and jump into an all-new fund-raising venture.

So, is there a steak-and-shrimp dinner in the fall? That’s one possibility that has been brought up in discussions.

But one thing is for sure: the Nile Garden Crab Feed is one of the longest-running, if not the longest, crab feeds in the area. What was the secret of its longevity? Silveira knows why.

“It has lasted as long as it has because of the great sense of tradition at Nile Garden,” he said.

That goes back to the time Nile Garden was an independent school district all by itself, in the tradition of New Jerusalem and Banta in Tracy. Until sometime in the 1960s, Nile Garden was not a part of the Manteca Unified School District when the majority of the students attending the school were children of the Nile Garden area’s farmers and farm workers. But an election ended that independence when the majority of the Nile Garden residents voted to become unified with the Manteca school district.