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Oud-Turnhout…the pearl of the Belgian pigeon sport… by Ad Schaerlaeckens
Some happy champions in Oud-Turnout…
I was having a bit of a clear out when I spotted an old regional result. And I read the names Hamels, Leuris, Reynen, Gillis, Adams, van Loon, Aarts, Wouters, Leemans and many more. All names of fanciers from my own and neighbouring villages, and seeing them, something became suddenly clear to me. They (and thus a few more) all had a father who was a pigeon fancier. They all started racing with pigeons because they had come in contact with the sport at home. With chairman Jaap it was the other way around. His son started keeping pigeons (inspired by a neighbour), and father Jaap followed.
For all that, I don’t recommend looking at old results. At least, not in my region. You have to be careful not to get depressed when you compare the present with 10 years ago, and you shouldn’t even think about comparing with 25 years back.
The number of fanciers here is not even a quarter of what it used to be, and the number of pigeons in a race is only a third of before. Or even less.
And then we are not even talking about the money side of it.
However, it is remarkable that the pigeon sport is much more in decline in certain areas than in others. The question arises how it could have come to this.
Is the pigeon sport not inviting anymore?
From the above mentioned names you would conclude the opposite.
If keeping pigeons was just a minor hobby, and nothing but trouble, surely not one of these people would have become a fancier?
From the moment they could walk they came into contact with the sport, so why did they take over the baton of their father?
Because they DID get to know the pigeon sport as an enjoyable pastime.
You could also see it like this: people who got to know the pigeon sport naturally at home became a fancier; people who don’t know the sport are not drawn to it.
The conclusion is simple. We’ll have to make more use of the media. Outsiders have to know that we exist. To become infected there has to be a source of infection.
I told the National chairman Van Bockstaele that it had been one of the biggest mistakes of the KBDB, or maybe even THE biggest mistake ever, to have cancelled the release reports on the National radio. He didn’t contradict me.
So the good news is that there are still areas where people are enjoying the pigeon sport, where the sport may have lost a bit of its splendour, but not as much as elsewhere.
This goes always hand in hand with people who lead the way, people also with a vision, and… a lot of selfless commitment.
Eugene Stabel from Goirle (the Netherlands) is such a person. But also W. De Troy from Berlaar, R. Geyssen from Sint Job, Dirk Van Dyck as well, and certainly B. Van Oeckel from Oud-Turnhout.
B. Van Oeckel has only been a fancier for some 10 years, but the way that he has put the pigeon sport back on the charts in Oud-Turnhout is admirable.
Just take the yearly voucher (Bon) sales. How they manage to get vouchers from so many renowned fanciers, you ask yourself.
Bart Van Oeckel provided one of the reasons: giving vouchers yourself.
But there is more to it than that.
Oud-Turnhout, although not a very large city, counts two pigeon clubs.
Club ‘De Prijsvlucht’ has 35 members. In the olden days that would count for little, however nowadays it is a respectable number.
And…? They are still growing. Of those 35 there are 10 members younger than 50 and that is significant as well in our aging sport.
The ‘long middle-distance’ is gaining in popularity in all regions, but especially in Oud-Turnhout.
What they do in that club to make their fanciers happy is unique and heart warming.
– Every year there is a forum evening.
– There is a yearly film evening.
– In the winter a pigeon show.
– There is the yearly spring dinner with quiz, for which the partners are also invited.
During the champion’s day, no less than 20,000 euro’s are given away in the form of trophies, flowers and especially in the return of pooling money. And the fanciers can use this money to buy vouchers.
The champion’s day here is not as boring as it can be in a lot of other places. In Oud-Turnhout they dine on Chinese food.
After the champions day, at a respectable hour after the older members have gone home, a fantastic disco party is organized that lasts until the small hours.
– There is a barbeque at basketing for the big yearly race from Bourges.
– At basketing for the last race, there is a Chinese buffet as conclusion of the season.
SALE OF VOUCHERS
I already mentioned the sale of vouchers.
In many places, the sale of an abundance of vouchers is a monotonous event, which has an adverse effect and therefore a low average.
Last year it was a duo presentation of Bart Van Oeckel and Gillis, who sold the vouchers in a record time of less than two hours.
The word boring is not known in Oud-Turnhout, or a low average because of an abundance?
Hmm. The 100 vouchers in 2011 were sold for no less than an average amount of 175 euro’s.
In 2012 they had 112 vouchers, which sold for 163 euro’s on average.
And each year an amount of some 20.000 euro’s is spent and that is a lot for such a small club?
There has to be more to it.
It must also be said that after a rejuvenating committee change five years ago, the mainly grey pigeon club got a makeover and was transformed into a vibrant modern ‘super club’.
Also, there are excellent fanciers living in Oud-Turnhout.
During the season, heroic battles are fought in the long middle-distance races and in the short middle-distance races between the regional stars Bart and Nance Van Oeckel, Jan Van Oeckel, Leo and Niels Broeckx and Luc Van Mechelen.
But: outside of the season they seem to be the best of friends, they buy each other’s vouchers and exchange pigeons.
And thus it can happen that the competition has the best pigeons from the competition.
It is characteristic what Jan Van Oeckel told me.
He had paid a lot of money for a voucher, in fact a bit too much.
But it was for the club and therefore it was okay.
The pigeon sport definitely still has possibilities and is still enjoyable in all respects…
People can certainly still enjoy the sport. As long as you have people who will lead the way. Like they do in Oud-Turnhout.