The concept that Joe Costa had 28 years ago was simple – help the people who need helping the most.
Initially it was played out in a small, intimate family gathering where he and his sons, Jim and Jesse, presented some bicycles that they had fixed up to the children of a worker that overnight became a single father with 10 children. Santa Claus paid a visit, and being avid outdoorsmen they pulled out some of their keep from what they bagged over the course of the year, cooked it up, and all sat down together to break bread in the name of one neighbor helping another.
It was right then and there that the Costa’s Wild Game Feed and Christmas Party was born.
For the last 27 years, the two brothers have carried on the tradition that their father started right there in the automotive machine shop that they still operate today – offering a community meal comprised of a myriad of wild game selections that range from bear and elk to salmon and rock cod.
The only difference is that it has grown to accommodate well over 1,000 people. The event now routinely draws people from neighboring states that make a special trip down to partake in the festivities – something that Jesse Costa said he never would have imagined that first year.
Everything kicks off on Friday, Dec. 9, at 11:30 a.m. at Manteca Trailer and Motorhome – located at 2060 E. Yosemite Ave. east of Highway 99.
“Turning into this wasn’t something that we could have expected. We’ve outgrown every place that we’ve ever held this at, and fortunately the good people at Manteca Trailer opened up their doors for us,” said Jesse Costa. “That’s the only way that we’ve been able to take in the crowds.”
In keeping with the spirit of the event, all of the donations that are accepted – last year they took in $8,000 from people who put what they felt they could into a donation bin at the door – go back to helping families in the community that need the assistance.
And it’s been volunteers that have stepped up and helped keep the event going as it grows to proportions that nobody ever thought it would reach.
All of the money that’s collected is then distributed through local businessman Bob Grasso – who networks with churches, schools and other programs to determine which kids and families in Manteca need assistance.
An outpouring of support from nearly 100 volunteers on the day of the event – including nearly two-dozen men who wake up early to start preparing the meat on-site – keeps the line moving as people filter through the massive main entrance of the facility.
But even with the money collected for charity and the volunteer support, the event also takes on a much simpler and more identifiable role – a reunion of sorts for people in the community who might not get the chance to see each other as often as they’d like to.
“It’s a family event and it’s a place for friends – it’s something that brings everybody together,” Costa said. “That’s something that’s important this time of year. People like meeting back up with old friends, and this is an event where they can do that.”
To get to Manteca Trailer and Motorhome, take East Yosemite Avenue/East Highway 120 east for half-a-mile. The business is located at the corner of E. Yosemite/SR 120 and Vasconcellos Road. The event begins at 11:30 a.m. and is scheduled to run until 7 p.m. For additional information, call 823-0781.