- Al Sharpton, Trayvon Martin’s parents rally against Fla. ‘stand your ground’ law
- Hillary Clinton campaign got illicit funds from D.C. scandal figure
- Obama administration backs off plan to cut prescription-drug program
- Tickets linked to stolen passports purchased by Iranian middleman
- More than 3,500 police planned for Boston Marathon
- Ottawa day care suspends 2-year-old for ‘outside’ cheese sandwich
- Liam Neeson tells NYC mayor to ‘man up’ in horse carriage fight
- Real-life Dr. Doolittle to reveal how to talk to animals
- Climate change could bring back smallpox, researchers say
- Shoe-bomb witness to speak from London at N.Y. trial
Birds of a feather? Pigeon lovers flock to OKC
OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) - Bird lovers from across the country flocked to Oklahoma City to celebrate a competition and revamped museum dedicated to the unlikeliest of feathered creatures: the pigeon.
These bird lovers were not celebrating the feral pigeon, viewed by many as a disease-ridden, excrement-prone nuisance that seems to multiply in droves. Rather, the celebrate pigeons for their athleticism and beauty, and hundreds competed to find out whose were the best.
“You just want to win,” said Paul Tapia, 50, as he firmly but gently separated the tail feathers of one of his pigeons, an Indian Fantail, during the National Pigeon Association’s Grand National competition that ended Saturday in Oklahoma City.
Tapia, in law enforcement in Albuquerque, N.M., has been breeding and taking care of pigeons off and on for most of his life and is accustomed to the raised eyebrows he gets when people hear about his unusual hobby. He’s come up with a solution, too: he whips out his cellphone and shows off photos of his beloved pigeons, just as a proud father does with his child.
Tapia’s more than 20 birds were among the 4,600 pigeons housed in individual cages at a convention center in downtown Oklahoma City for the competition. There were white ones, brown ones, black ones and some with a combination of colors. Some had long beaks, others short beaks. Some were plump, while others were leaner with sinewy necks.
Bill Cunningham, a retired firefighter from Madisonville, Ky., brought 13 pigeons for the competition. He said the birds are very gentle and soothing. “If you ever get started on them, you won’t want to get out. It’s a very good thing for nerves,” said the 68-year-old.
The grand national, considered the ultimate pigeon competition for fancy breeders, is held in a different city each year. And this year’s show was held just miles from the American Pigeon Museum and Library, which reopened just in time to lure the hundreds of pigeon lovers already in town.
Call it killing two birds with one stone.
The American Pigeon Museum is now housed in a new 5,800-square-foot red-brick building and features photographs, displays, memorabilia and artwork telling the history of the bird, and the hobbies of breeding and racing pigeons.
Lorrie Monteiro, curator of the museum, said she hopes people who visit develop a new appreciation for the pigeon.
“My hope is the story we’re telling here will show them that this pigeon, this little bird, has had a relationship with man for thousands of years, and it’s been a very symbiotic relationship and it’s just an amazing little creature,” she said. Monteiro, who had no previous experience with pigeons before starting the job a year and a half ago, said she has developed a fondness for the feathered creature, listing off a variety of facts: Hannibal crossing the Alps had pigeons and the first Olympics used pigeons to get messages back to athlete’s villages. “I’m hooked on this little bird because I think it’s been very misunderstood,” she added.
The idea for the museum first formed in 1973, but it wasn’t until 20 years later that a museum where people could flock to actually became a reality.
The new museum building is located just steps away from the old museum building, located in Oklahoma City’s Adventure District and right off historic Route 66. It’s a location that Monteiro hopes will position the museum to become a major tourist destination in the city. In addition to featuring live pigeons in the future, Monteiro hopes to also add special exhibits, guest speakers and outdoor activities.
But why the Sooner State for a pigeon museum? Simply put, it’s the center of the country. Museum directors decided on Oklahoma City early on because of its location, said Jerry Black, one of the executive board members of the museum.
Patsy Blaine-Wright, whose husband, Johnnie Blaine, was the manager of the original museum in the late 1990s before he died, said he would be blown away by the makeover. The two had quit their jobs in Kansas to move to Oklahoma City to run the museum.
TWT Video Picks
By David Keene
Conference showed that the values Reagan cherished still endure
- Hillary Clinton campaign received funds from Jeffrey Thompson
- Kim Jong-un calls for execution of 33 Christians
- Senate Democrats, Republicans spar over restoring unemployment benefits
- Unanimous Senate passes bill on military sex assault to give victims more say in prosecution
- Atheists sue to remove 'Ground Zero Cross' from 9/11 museum
- Mitch McConnell on beating tea party: 'We are going to crush them'
- Bill Clinton poses for photo with Bunny Ranch prostitutes
- Sharyl Attkisson resigns from CBS after months of talks
- George Zimmerman signs autographs at Orlando gun show
- DHS accused of holding U.S. citizen at airport, using emails to pry into her sex life
Pope Francis meets his 'mini-me'
Celebrity deaths in 2014
Winter storm hits states — again