The birds are taking up roost at the Amarillo Civic Center Complex this weekend.
For the first time in its almost 100 year history, the National Pigeon Association Grand National show will be held in Amarillo on Thursday through Saturday, when more than 4,500 pigeons representing as many as 600 varieties will compete for the honor of “grand champion pigeon” and the $500 prize that comes with the title.
“We try to move the show around,” said Tim Heidrich, secretary-treasurer of the National Pigeon Association. “We talked with the Amarillo Chamber of Commerce and they were very inviting.”
With more than 300 competitors expected, the show is expected to be an economic boon to the city and give pigeon hobbyists a chance to show off their birds to the community.
“These are fancy pigeons — much like a fancy chicken show,” Heidrich said. “We have our national show every year in January and we will have people from almost all 50 states coming.”
Visitors from abroad are also expected to come to the show, according to Heidrich.
“People from the Middle East and Europe will likely be here,” he said. “Europe and the Middle East have a much bigger population of people involved in the pigeon hobby.”
While the hobby is not as popular in the U.S., Charles Hanna of Amarillo and Russell Bullerd of Dumas are two area hobbyists who will show pigeons.
“Anybody can have a hobby — stamps, whatever, and raising pigeons is a hobby,” said Hanna, who grew up in White Settlement raising chickens and made the move to pigeons when he moved to Amarillo.
“I showed pigeons at the 1980 Fort Worth Stock Show, and I’ve been doing it ever since,” he said.
Hanna’s wife Paulette and son Christopher are also involved in taking care of and showing the pigeons.
“We raise them in a 16-by-10-foot coop, and they have everything they need,” Hanna said.
Unlike the wild pigeons, which many consider dirty and creators of unwanted waste on property, Hanna said breeding pigeons are clean and well kept by handlers.
“They are kept clean; there’s involvement with health and vitamins and a higher standard,” Hanna said.
Bullerd, like Hanna, began raising pigeons as a child but gave it up for many years before returning to the hobby with his wife Mawana Bullerd several years ago.
“I’ll be showing 11 pigeons,” Bullerd said. “I have American German Beauties and show racers. This is my first time to show at nationals. I’m excited.”
Birds will arrive Thursday morning and be in place by 4 p.m.
“Thursday after 4 p.m. will be a good time to see the pigeons,” Heidrich said. “Saturday at 1 p.m. will be the line-up of champions.”
The show will run in multiple rooms of the Civic Center and is free and open to the public.