Pigeon racing tough sell on youth
Windsor Invitational Pigeon Racing Club has half the members it did 30 years ago
Pigeon racing is losing its lustre in Windsor-Essex.
The Windsor Invitational Pigeon Racing Club less than half the number of members today then it did 30 years ago.
"It’s like anything else, the older guys are leaving and we don’t have new guys coming in. It’s a struggle to keep it going," said club president Carlo Bertolissio, who joined in 1984. "Kids are more interested in video games and stuff like that.
"We have a couple kids in the club and we’re hoping for good things in the future."
Bertolissio said pigeon racing "is like a disease."
"And when the bug hits you, it's very difficult to get rid of it," he said. "I started racing in 1984 and I just love it."
Bertolissio said the sport has a connection to nature and a rich history.
"I love hearing the old guys talk about stories from back in the day; how it was in the 1960s, 70s and 80s - the heyday of the sport."
Zach Gignac, 13, started helping his grandfather pigeon racer Brad Wogan around the coop three years ago.
"I like coming out here," Gignac said. "It’s fun to hold the pigeons. You have to pick them up the right way, or they’ll peck at you. I don’t like that.
He admits, his friends prefer video games over cleaning a pigeon coop.
"They say it’s boring because they just like video games," Gignac said. "I like to get outside in the summer and doing something other than playing video games."
For most people, pigeons are a minor annoyance that crowd our sidewalks and beg for food in parks.
But Wogan, races the bird.
"They call this the poor man's horse game," he said.
Wogan grew up helping his father band and train pigeons. He gave the game up for a while, but recently found his way back.
"I retired a few years back. I wanted something to do. I said, 'this is it, this is the hobby I want try.' So I went back to flying birds," he said.
Wogan keeps several dozen birds in a coop in his backyard. He's training them up for a big race this weekend.
"It's all great competition," Wogan said. "It's a big sky. You don't know. Some days you lose a race by an hour and last year I lost a race by a second."