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Feasting for Funds

By capitalizing on a luxury--fresh crab--the Twin Falls (Idaho) High School boys' basketball team has been able to create a fundraiser that covers its yearly expenses.

Fresh crab is something people in California and Maryland may be used to eating, but Idaho residents don't often have that luxury. That's why the boys' basketball team at Twin Falls High School has used a Saturday night crab feed in late January or early February to raise money for the last eight years--often bringing in about $10,000 in profit.

Head Coach Matt Harr got the idea from a teacher who came to Twin Falls from San Francisco. "I looked into it and found a guy in Sacramento who sells crab in bulk to places looking to do this," he says.

Players sell tickets to the crab feed, priced at $30, which allows buyers a dinner of crab, potatoes, fruits, vegetables, and dessert. They begin selling roughly two weeks before the event, and set a strict cut off time. "Because I buy the crab a few days before the event, I need to have a decent idea of how many people are going to show up," he says. "So I cut the tickets off the Monday before the event."

Harr buys about three pounds of crab per attendee, and usually the players wind up selling around 600 tickets in advance. But because some people show up the night of the event wanting tickets, Harr always buys for about 100 more. The tab? $10,000-$11,000.

Once he's bought the crab, he rents a trailer, and the school's athletic director and a few of Harr's friends make the 10-hour drive to Sacramento. When they pick up the crab, it has already been cooked, cleaned, and packed in ice. The cold weather means they can leave the crab in the trailer overnight on the way back.

Since there's only so much crab he can haul from Sacramento, Harr doesn't promote the event heavily, to limit walkups the day of the event. "I almost declined when a local TV station wanted to do a story on it because I didn't want too many people to show up," he says.

Once the crab is back, it's all hands on deck when it comes to set up in the school's cafeteria. Varsity team parents bake potatoes that are often donated, JV team parents decorate the cafeteria with fishing nets and poles and set up tables, and parents of freshmen cut and wash fruits and vegetables. A member of the school's kitchen staff is on hand as well, as the coaching staff puts the crab in boiling water for a minute before being served.

The night of the event, the players serve customers, which helps cut down on wait times. Seniors work the first two hours, JV players the next two, and the freshmen handle the last two and cleanup. "Rather than everyone standing in line getting food, once they turn in their tickets, the players take their orders," Harr says. "It makes it run smoothly. The flip side is, I have to make sure the players don't give people too much, or accidentally throw out good crab--which happened once--so we don't run out."

After the expenses are subtracted--about $1,500 for tablecloths, sides, and desserts, along with the crab--the team has enough money to cover its costs for the season. "This has been the only fundraiser we've had to do for the last eight years," Harr says. "It's a huge success."



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