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Wild times ahead at Costa's Feed
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The Costa's Wild-Game Feed was started by the Costas late father, Joe, when he devised a way to help one of his employees and his 10 children during the holidays. - photo by HIME ROMERO/Bulletin file photo

A decades-long tradition of giving at Christmas continues on December 5 at Manteca Trailer and Motorhome when the perennially popular Costa’s Wild-Game Feed returns.

While the occasion is the perfect place for people to do a taste-test on the palatability of a number of exotic dishes featuring meat from such wild animals as bear, deer, boar, and chukar – to name just a few – it’s the reason behind this tradition which business owner David W. Tenney wants people to keep in mind.

“It’s a real social event, with a lot of people who haven’t seen each other in a while see each other” while enjoying the delicious wild-game dishes prepared by an army of volunteers, Tenney said.

But even more important, he said, “it’s the Christmas season, so it’s time to be thankful and to realize how blessed we are, and try to reach into our pocket to help those who are not as lucky as we are.”

He is talking about the needy families in Manteca who benefit from the donations that are collected from the people who come to the feed. Guests are asked to drop a few dollars, or a lot more if they can afford, in a donation box – or a small drum to be more specific – and the money collected will be used to buy clothes and shoes for young children.

“It’s not about toys. Families (that are referred) are asked, ‘what are your needs,’ and the parents say, ‘my boy needs jeans, my daughter needs shoes and backpack.’ We try to help as many people as possible,” Tenney explained. “A lot of kids are going to school wearing the same shoes and clothes every day. People tip us off as to who are the needy. Bob Grasso and his wife run the group of volunteers who do the shopping, wrapping delivering the presents. The shopping is the hardest part of the whole thing.”

They are able to use 100 percent of the proceeds – they collected $10,000 last year – to help as many needy people as possible because all the food is donated, and the work is done strictly by volunteers.

“The cooking event is by volunteers who start cooking at 5 or 6 o’clock in the morning; the ice is donated by SuperStore in Lathrop; labor for all clean-up and set-up is donated by my employees; we maintain and clean up things,” Tenney said.

The Costa brothers – Jim and Jesse of Costa’s Automotive on Button Avenue – “organize to get all the food” and drinks that are served from 11:30 a.m. to about 3 p.m. In addition to the wild-game meat, which are donated by the Costa siblings and their friends who are also avid hunters, there are a wide variety of dessert served, as well as seafood such as calamari and smoked salmon that Jim Costa brings to California from his fishing trips to Alaska. He smokes the salmon himself using a recipe he developed which remains a top secret.

This is the first time the wild-game feed is being held at the Manteca Trailer since Tenney became the owner of the business in January of this year. He bought the business from Terry Davis, who took it it over after his parents passed away.

The feed itself has been taking place here for several years now after its original location at the Costa’s Automotive on Button Avenue outgrew the event, after which Davis offered the use of the Manteca Trailer facility on East Highway 120, corner Vasconcellos Avenue.

The philanthropic tradition was started by the Costas’ late father, Joe, when he devised a way to help one of his employees and his 10 children at Christmas after his wife and the kids children left. The “clean-up guy” refused to go on welfare and struggled to support his family without asking help from anyone. Just so the kids’ father did not feel like he is the object of charity, and being conscious to preserve the man’s pride, Joe Costa and his sons organized a Christmas party for the father and his children complete with a visit from Santa with gifts for the children.