Tradition brings UM professor back for NU Classic Pigeon Show

NEW ULM – Nostalgia brings Gale Peterson back to New Ulm each winter for the annual all-age, all-breed pigeon show at the Brown County Coliseum.

A 1962 New Ulm High School graduate, Peterson grew up near Swan Lake and has family living in the area. Now living in St. Paul, he’s a University of Minnesota psychology professor.

“It’s the same old, wonderful tradition,” Peterson said. More than a half century ago, he won a junior championship as a youngster. “It was a fond experience. I got lots of help from old-timers like Eugene and William Vorwerk, Henry Plagge, George Neuwirth who really took me under their wings.”

His passion continued on the family farm. Nowadays, he keeps about 30 pigeons on two lofts (coops) behind his home. “My neighbors are fine with it because I keep it tidy,” he explained.

He finds creating a pigeon flock of about 20 who can do backwards summersaults while flying high in the sky among his challenges. “It’s kind of like coaching a baseball team and winning the state or national title.”

Peterson said the issue of pigeons carrying diseases can be alleviated by properly taking care of them. “I think it’s really a myth if you tend to them correctly,” he added.

New Ulm show judges included Mike Van Beek of Sioux Falls, S.D. who’s been raising pigeons for more than 50 years.

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

Fritz Busch can be e-mailed at

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