Big Blue Food

The scene: Costco in San Diego. a couple of miles from where the Blue Devils are putting the finishing touches on their 2001 show.

The players: Three members of Devils’ Food, the crew that’s been cooking for the Blue Devils for the last dozen years, and one very confused check out clerk.

The source of the confusion: $1,700 in groceries the trio has lined up.

It’s the first time the clerk has seen someone with 30 pounds of sausage, 12 pounds of pancake mix, 25 dozen eggs, 330 pounds of spaghetti noodles, 30 pounds of home fries, eight number 10 cans of spaghetti sauce, 60 loaves of bread and 30 gallons of milk.

“They ask us things like, ‘are you with the army,’” says Sandy Gist, one of the crew since 1989. Other clerks ask if they are feeding a troop of monkeys. Some just raise their eyebrows and are afraid to ask what’s happening.“They think we’re nuts when we come through (the check-out line) says Eldon Conklin, also a veteran since 1989.

Whatever the reaction at the store near the high school where the Blue Devils are practicing before a show, for the Devils’ Food Crew of Conklin, Gist and Carol Vargas, who cook three nourishing meals out of a converted semi-trailer for 140 kids every day of a several weeks long tour, it’s just another day at the outdoor office.

What brings them back, year after year? “I’m just amazed at the dedication of the kids, seeing how hard they work,” Conklin said. “The time they put in on the field is amazing. The kids just keep getting better and better each year,” says Gist, whose own son, Alvin aged out of the Blue Devils in 1989. “They keep you smiling, keep you young. You get attached to them. “

With another school gym to park the Devils’ Food truck next to every day, what gets the Devils’ Food crew excited? “There was the time in Tulsa when we were parked in a parking lot right next door to a Sam’s Club. We could go there in our golf cart (for the daily $800 grocery run),” Gist said. “That was the highlight of the tour.”

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2001-08-07