The pigeons were the first group to arrive of about 80 birds that were released from Peace River, Alta., at about 9:30 that morning during the fourth and final race of a circuit that is hosted every year by the Rotary Clubs of Dawson Creek.
The pigeons are raised by Lance Jones, who has been involved in pigeon races for over 30 years and has raised both provincial and national champions. Each bird is tagged and the first to arrive back inside the coop is declared the winner.
Of those birds participating in the final race, 21 had been auctioned off on Sept. 9 during the Rotary's Sixth Annual Pigeon Race Sponsor Auction Banquet. Participants bid on the racing rights for those birds for the chance to win a percentage of the total raised if their bird finished in the top three in the race on Sunday.
"It was the best year yet for that auction. People were just bidding up like crazy, and it was a lot of fun," said Sally Schilds, past president of the Rotary Noon Club.
She said one bidder spent $1,600 on a bird, while another spent nearly $3,000 for the racing rights to three birds. She said in total, over $15,000 just on the live auction alone.
Schilds said unlike the other birds that they sell the racing rights for before the races begin, the ones that were auctioned off on Friday were pre-named by the organizers of the event with names like Soggy Farmer and Money Matters, designed to correspond with the professions of some of the bidders.
"They try to pick themes that the bidders are going to be excited about," she said.
"A poor little bird called 'Cream Puff' didn't go for very much. I guess there were no bakers there!" she added with a laugh.
The evening also included a silent auction featuring about 50 items donated by Rotarians and their friends. There was also a Calcutta auction, an auction for framed prints donated by Rotarian Don Bourassa with Ducks Unlimited, a 50-50 draw, and a raffle for two quilts made by Jackie Reschny that raised over $1,000.
"All of the money raised goes towards our projects – big and small," said Schilds.
She said those projects may include installing a new bridge over the Dawson Creek where it intersects with the Rotary Walking Trail behind the Dawson Mall, or continuing to support the Mizpah Transition House by donating starter kits for woman fleeing abusive relationships. The Rotary Clubs also hot two community dinners and an Old Fashioned Christmas over the winter months.
Schilds said a special thanks goes to the two organizers of this year`s races, Don Bourassa and Jay Luu, to the staff at the George Dawson Inn for the buffet during the banquet, and to the professional auctioneers who volunteered their time to run the live auction – Gary Bratt, and Jeff and Lorne Weaver.