Pigeon lovers gather in NU

NEW ULM – It’s nostalgia that brings Gale Peterson back to New Ulm each winter for the annual pigeon show at the Youth Coliseum at the Brown County Fairgrounds.

A 1962 New Ulm High School graduate, Peterson of St. Paul, now a University of Minnesota Psychology professor, grew up near Swan Lake.

“I come here for reasons of nostalgia,” Peterson said. “Fifty-six years ago, I won a junior championship at the pigeon show as a young boy. It was a big deal for me. I have lots of fondness about the experience. I got lots of help from some old-timers like Eugene and William Vorwerk, Henry Plagge who really took me under his wing, and George Neuwirth (of George’s Ballroom, New Ulm).”

Peterson said taking care of pigeons and other birds was part of growing up on the family farm.

“Coming here again is about staying with my roots,” Peterson said. This time of year, he keeps about 30 pigeons on two lofts (coops) behind his house.

Peterson said his neighbors have no problem with it because he keeps the lofts neat and tidy.

He talked about the challenges in raising good pigeons.

“It’s about creating a flock of about 20 of them who can do their backwards summersaults while flying high in the sky,” Peterson said. “It’s a challenge finding birds who their acrobatics to perfection. It’s kind of like coaching a baseball team and winning it all.”

Pigeon show judge Mike Van Beek of Sioux Falls said he’s been raising pigeons for 53 years.

“I spent 24 years racing sprint cars but I’d rather be around pigeons and the people that share the hobby,” Van Beek said. “Pigeon contests aren’t as intense as racing sprint cars. I enjoy the camaraderie too. We enjoy lots of potluck suppers and picnics. Taking care of birds can be a teaching aid for young kids in 4-H.”

The show was sponsored by the Brown County Poultry and Pigeon Association (BCPPA). Poultry swap meets at the Youth Coliseum are set for Feb. 16, March 16, April 21, May 18, June 22, July 20 and Aug.17 in New Ulm.

Fritz Busch can be e-mailed at fbusch@nujournal.com

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