By the time the sun sets on Friday, Jim and Jesse Costa are going to be two of the most tired guys in town.
It comes with the territory when you organize a community event that feeds more than a thousand people and raises money to help dozens of financially strapped families during the holiday season.
But while the preparations will be long and the turnout will be massive, they definitely won’t be handling everything on their own.
With the Costa’s Annual Wild Game Feed and Christmas Party, now in its 27th year, taking place this year on Friday, Dec. 10, the brothers have a dedicated core group of volunteers who pull together to handle everything from the donations to the food preparation.
“There are probably 80 people that will be there early Friday to make sure everything is ready before the massive rush starts,” said Jim Costa. “These are people who will take days off of work – lose a day’s wages – to come and make this possible. It’s truly grown into a community event, and we’re grateful to have friends and supporters who help out with this.”
Every year platters full of venison (deer), elk, bear, duck, pheasant, chukar, fish and assorted seafood are prepared and laid out for all to enjoy – with only a donation that goes to help the needy families serving as the admission price.
Costa says that he has three freezers at his home that are completely full of taken game waiting to be fried, barbecued or grilled.
And even though the two brothers are active sportsmen, there’s no way they could possibly secure enough meat to make the event possible by themselves. With deep roots in Manteca and a locally owned business, the brothers have a huge network of family, friends, associates and colleagues that all make sure to set aside a portion of their take from whatever they happen to get on their hunts or excursions.
“We start getting stuff from people right after this ends when they go out on a hunt somewhere,” Costa said. “We get meat all throughout the year, and as we start to get closer we get an idea of how much we’re going to have.
“Plus we have people that make salads, beans and vegetable dishes. This is very much a community event all the way around.”
It also serves as a makeshift reunion for those who have left the area and the state to pursue other things.
Each year, the brothers add another state to the extensive list of visitors that make the trek back solely for the event. Oregon, Idaho, Colorado, Texas, Michigan and Nevada have all been crossed off in recent years, and this year two people are expected to fly in from Alaska to take part in the festivities.
“It’s a good time, and everybody is there to have fun,” said Jesse Costa of why he enjoys this time of year the most. “More importantly though is the fact that it goes to help needy families in the community, and that’s more important now than it ever has been. There are a lot of needy people out there just looking for the bare necessities. Hopefully this can raise the money so we can help.”
Costas’ father started the giving spirit by helping a family in need
It was Jim and Jessie’s late father, Joe, who planted the original philanthropic seed from which the wild-game feed evolved. The story is now a familiar one to a lot of people.
Joe Costa, who founded Costa’s Automotive, had a Mexican employee at his shop. The man was the sole breadwinner for his wife and their 10 children. Tragedy struck when the man’s wife suddenly left him and their young children. Despite being urged to sign up for welfare to feed and care for his family, the proud father staunchly refused any such help. Desirous to help the struggling family but careful not to hurt the man’s pride, Joe Costa threw a Christmas party for the family and made arrangements for Santa to come and distribute gifts and other basic necessities for the children and their father.
That party was held at the automotive shop. Years later, they needed bigger quarters. Next door Vern’s Towing offered his place of business where the event stayed for a number of years. But the increasingly popular Christmas gathering soon outgrew that place, too, at which time Terry Davis of Manteca Trailer stepped forward and offered the use of the RV showroom.
After Joe Costa passed away, his sons Jim and Jessie, two of his six children (three girls and three boys) not only took over the business but continued the Good Samaritan work that their father started.
What happened to the Mexican family that Joe Costa helped? None of his children knows, but son Jim said that everyone in the family eventually went back to Mexico with the exception of the youngest who ended up marrying a young man who was serving in the military.
“They left a good legacy,” one of the wild-game volunteers last year said of the seeds of mercy planted by Joe Costa and his wife Mary, devout Catholics whose parents came to America from the Azores.
The 27th annual Costa’s Wild Game Feed will be held on Friday, Dec. 10 starting at 11:30 a.m. at Manteca Trailer and Camper – located at 2060 E. Yosemite Avenue.