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After a busy racing season, it is world wide tradition that every Club, Federation / Union arranges a prize-giving for its members. It is here that we as fanciers get rewarded for our hard work throughout the year. Everybody is not always successful to win a trophy and others walk away with a good collection of silverware. The pigeon sport is now for once and for all a sport with ups and downs. Throughout the world the competition is very strong and we try every method to make a pigeon fly faster. We also spend big money to purchase the better pigeon to stand a better chance of winning the trophies. We aim to make an impression and also to feature in our local pigeon magazine. Last month I gave my view on the damage done by money in our sport, but this month my mind flows around the credit that must be given to the winners.
In most clubs around the world the prize-giving is basically the only event that takes place yearly where we can invite friends, co workers and business associates. These are the potential new pigeon fancier. Due to the fact that all our other club activities are during the season and we are busy with our duties in the clubhouse, it is difficult to invite potential fanciers to attend the basketing and clock-out evenings. They might feel uncomfortable in the clubhouse and therefore one must exercise great care not to put a newcomer in a position to get negative to our sport. The best opportunity to invite these interested parties is therefore functions like barbeques, get-togethers, sundowners, pigeon days and our prize giving.
Due to the fact that our prize-giving is the biggest outing of the year, it is essential that we must really hang out. The venue selection is of utmost importance and must be a place that make the members relax. It must also cater for the kids to have fun and not feel that our sport is a pain in the rear. Our kids should be our first row of introduction into the sport and not to be the labourer for the lazy fanciers. Father and son/daughter should work together to enjoy the sport and care must be given that mom does not pack her suitcase. Who will we miss the most – mom or the pigeons?
The decoration at our function should be outstanding and great care must be given to the color scheme, seating, lighting, flowers and food. The overall impression must represent our sport. How can we spend millions per year on our sport and close the season with a “kick in the back” prize-giving. Surely in cases like this, which do exists, we need to examine our priorities towards the sport. The prize giving is the real once in a year opportunity that we have to promote the sport to the friends who were invited to the function and it is of great importance that every member of our Club or Federation invite somebody that is interested in our game.
Not only is it necessary to invite potential fanciers, but it is important that a good speaker be used to market the sport to the potential newcomer. Attention must mainly be given to the sport as a family sport and an alternative to being bored at home, as well as families and children sitting in front of the television, videogames, cell phones and modern electronics. Attention can also be given to partnerships in our sport. Our current fanciers must be in a position to except a newcomer as a sleeping partner to your racing team. We must then be adaptable to race under a new name, like Cornelius and Schoeman lofts, with Schoeman being the sleeping partner. This will only be to place Schoeman in a position to learn the basics of the sport and to lead him to erect to small loft in his own property. This will then become his baby steps in our sport. The speaker must also elaborate on the cycle of the sport which entails the breeding of athletes per pedigree, the training and feeding of these athletes to get them race ready, the testing of these athletes during racing and to complete the cycle by using the best racing machines to breed our athletes for the following season. Do not over promote-keep it basic not to be boring.
One matter which must receive the greatest attention during our yearly prize giving is to make invited guests feel as welcome as possible. The Chairman or Secretary must personally welcome the members and their friends at the door. It is thereafter the job of every member to introduce his friends to everybody that shares the table. It is also expected from every club member to extend a hand of welcome to the invited guests of other members during the course of the evening. To make the evening interesting, the wives of fanciers can be approach to write a story of the funniest moment in their backyards concerning the sport. Here the wives can let go and tell the funniest story that happened with her husband and his pigeons. These stories will then be read out during the evening, without the husbands knowing about it. Your guests will find this most amusing and it is a great way of changing their minds towards the fun we have during the competitiveness of our sport. I heard these stories the first time during my visit to the Luckhoff prize-giving not long ago. I must say I really enjoyed them and it gives you a great picture of the household and their pigeon sport .
Here is one story: One of the fanciers located near Luchoff has got a good habit of preparing Rooibos tea (?) for his pigeons every Sunday morning at 6 am. His wife subsequently complained that, since they got married many years ago, she never received coffee or tea from him at 6 am in bed. He answered by inviting her every Sunday morning at 6 to his pigeon lofts, to enjoy a good cup of tea with his stock birds – True Story – They are still married, as divorce is too expensive and the pigeons need all the money !!!!!!!!
The main event during the prize-giving of course is the handing over of trophies, certificates ect. Care must be taken that every winner be addressed in a professional manner and his trophy handed over with respect to his achievement. There is nothing as degrading, when we work hard during the season and the handing out of our trophy is of a low class. Not even talking about trophies being decorated on a table and the best the Chairman can do, is to read out the fanciers name with his achievements and for the fancier to collect his trophies after the event or not even collecting them. How can we spend 365 days a year giving the utmost care to our birds and must allow a prize giving to be a cheap, quick as possible, occasion. The big winners (club champion, yearling champion ect.) must be treated with respect, because they earned it. Time must be given to their history in the sport, their achievements and their love for our game. I remember very clearly a situation where a Kimberley member won the Northern Cape Federation Championships and his club never even handed the shield over to him. How can we build a sport with mutual respect towards each other, when we allow these small jackals to break us apart.
Taking the lead in a successful prize-giving is the Chairman and his committee. It is of no use to organize a successful event where our sport can be promoted, when the Chairman and committee is weak in organizing it. In cases like this, it is best to approach the wives and let them take the lead in our venture. What do men know anyway about food, knifes, forks and flowers? Another option that is very successful is to let a Hotel, Motel, Holiday Resort or Wildlife Farm cater for your prize-giving. This choice brings great relieve to the committee and wives, as the caterer will see to the tables, chairs, decorations, flowers and eats. The only arrangements for the club, is the decorations of the trophies and a good speaker to bring our sport-building message home. Make sure that the person handing out the trophies, is one that can lift the spirit of the sport by giving credit where credit is due.
I have on more that one occasion attended the prize-giving of the Bloemfontein Racing Pigeon Federation. If ever there is great prize-giving, this event is one of the best that is being presented in South Africa. One big reason for their success is the fact that they brought all clubs together under one roof and every fancier is proud to be a member of their Federation. Everything is organized professionally and leaves a taste of a sport that I want to be part of .