The first annual “Pigeons in the Park” event was held at Memorial Park in Payson on Saturday, June 29.
The event was hosted by Hal and Rebecca Peery of Payson and was used to promote the sport, to commemorate the end of a racing season, and to allow friends to gather.
“It’s a great, low cost family hobby,” Hal Peery says. “Pigeons are interesting. They get in your blood.”
Two national dignitaries from the pigeon racing world attended in support of the Peerys and the rest of the club: Tom Coletti of Afton, Wyoming, former American Racing Pigeon Union (AU) president and one of the judges of the Pigeons in the Park event, as well as Jeff Life of Wentatchee, Washington, who is the Northwest Zone Director of the AU.
The twenty or so pigeons being judged on Saturday—all young birds who have not yet raced—were categorized by color. There were five classes. The judges looked at the eyes, feathers, how they stand, and other criteria. Competitors from Idaho, Wyoming, Washington, and all over Utah brought their birds to compete.
Jeff Harmon’s pigeon received Best in Show, and Jeff Sherwood’s received Second Best in Show. Both Harmon and Sherwood are in the Utah County Pigeon Racing Association (UCA).
The most recent pigeon season ended last week, but will start again with this new group of young pigeons in August.
Each season, the pigeons participate in 12 or 13 races. Racers from UCA compete with other clubs in Orem, Lehi, and Salt Lake City.
Hal Peery, a construction project manager, has lived in Payson all of his life. When he was growing up, it seemed everyone in town had pigeons as pets. “They make great pets,” Peery says. “They don’t bark.”
It wasn’t until he was an adult that he became involved in the sport of pigeon racing. Hal currently has forty or fifty pigeons in his loft—the building where the pigeons are kept.
Each club has a race secretary. Club members take the birds to the secretary the night before for basketing. Crates are then locked. The next morning, they are driven in a specialized vehicle to one of several specific locations and are released by 7 a.m. The pigeons then fly home.
The young pigeons start racing about 130 miles from the sending off point to home. Week by week, each race is progressively longer. About 1,000 pigeons race at one time.
They are timed for speed (yards per minute), not distance, using a computerized band that was placed on the bird’s leg when it’s around five days old. This ID band allows the birds to be compared to others from around the nation.
The weather and winds play a big part in the speed of the racer. The biggest problem the pigeons face is the predatory hawks and falcons in the area.
The club here in south Utah County was started in the 1970s. “We’re looking for people to come fly with us,” Peery says. “If they’re interested, we’ll help them get set up. I’d hate to see kids miss out on this.”
The UCA is a small club, and they are looking to gain exposure so they can grow. Any interested parties can contact Hal Peery through email: [email protected]
The pigeons have enriched Peery’s life and he’d like to share this with others. “They make me feel peaceful.”