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New exhibit for the birds

‘Pigeon man’ delights fairgoers of all ages

    Even though the Kiwanis Ogeechee Fair has only been open two days, Dave Bacon has already become known as “the pigeon man.”
    Children and adults alike are drawn to the set of cages holding an array of unusual birds situated near the fairground’s Heritage Village. The birds drew their interest; Bacon kept it with a friendly and educational banter as he shared his obvious love for the birds.
    Bacon’s display, new to the fair, includes eight pigeons representing the following breeds: West of England Tumbler; New York Flying Flight; Jacobin; Old
Dutch Turbit; Parlor Roller; Roller: Racing Homer; and Old German Owl.
    These birds are a far cry from the pigeons one finds flying wild in city parks - they are racing and show pigeons, and are very dear to Bacon’s heart. “I was 12 years old, in 1948, when I got started in pigeons,” he said. “I lived in a suburb of New York,
called Mt. Vernon. People had pigeons everywhere.”
    There were pigeon breeders “on every block,” he said.
    Back then, he began his hobby with New York Flying Flights, a racing breed. “They were developed by German immigrants.”
    As his hobby grew, so did his flock, but as Bacon grew older, young ladies vied for his attention. “It was either give up the girlfriend or pigeons, so
like an idiot, I gave up the pigeons and married the girl,” he said.
    That marriage didn’t last, but Bacon found another lady, one who understood his passion for pigeons. When she suggested he get a hobby in 1989, he knew what that hobby would be.
    As a young man he had many different breeds of pigeons, but today he breeds eight. There are over 300 breeds of domesticated pigeons in the world, he said.
    Speaking between visitors, Bacon was delighted to share his love for the birds.
    The hobby began losing popularity in the United States in the 1980’s, after reaching its height in popularity just after World War II, he said. But in
other countries, such as Belgium, the hobby flourished.
   “It’s the national sport in Belgium,” Bacon told one visitor.
    The pigeon display at the fair drew a steady crowd as folks wandered past. Some visitors recognized the birds and had some knowledge of pigeon racing, but many seemed amazed by Bacon’s wealth of knowledge and by the discovery that pigeons were raised for showing and that some costs thousands of dollars.
    It doesn’t have to be an expensive hobby, however, he said. Anyone interested in getting into raising pigeons can do so for little investment.
    “To me, it’s a fun hobby,” he said. “I’m really into t he racing and showing.”
    In racing, pigeons are released from a certain point and a GPS system is used in tracking the birds. Racers face challenges such as “hawks, violent storms,
dove hunters and electric wires,” he said.
    In showing, each breed must adhere to a certain standard of the breed and is judged in that as well asits health and presentation, he said.
    Show and racing pigeons are nothing like the “wild, feral pigeons you see in parks, although they are related,” he said. “We (pigeon enthusiasts) hate them just like the public does.”
    Proud of his flock, Bacon showed a young man one hen. “I can trace her pedigree back 10 generations, 43 years,” he said.
    He strongly recommends pigeons as a family hobby. “In this day and age, families need something like this hobby. It’s a great home thing.”
    he biggest investment is building the loft, he told one young visitor, handing him a pamphlet about raising pigeons. “YOu can probably get started for $100.”
    Some breeds are easier to raise than others, he warned. “Some are dumb (breeds), and some cannot feed their young (because of beak structure).”  These breeds are raised by allowing them to lay eggs, then taking the eggs for surrogate hens, called “pumpers,” to raise.
    Bacon has 60 birds at his loft on Bartlett Drive in Statesboro. And every visitor who expressed a sincere interest in the hobby received a business card
and an invitation to come find out more about raising pigeons.
    Bacon’s pigeon display is one of many interesting attractions found at the fair in addition to the midway. Visitors can view antique farm equipment, check out an authentic blacksmith shop and a historic farm house, buy a cold Coke from a country general store and see how a bee farm operates.
    The 45th Annual Kiwanis Ogeechee Fair on Ga. 67 is open today through Friday at 4 p.m. and on Saturday at 1 p.m., with live entertainment, exhibits and more.

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