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As thousands of fanciers were preparing to swoop on Blackpool this weekend, organisers of this years’ annual show were breathing a collective sigh of relief.
It is not often that an avian pandemic threatens the first big event of the year.

But this year, the threat was all too real for organiser Peter Bryant.

This year the British Homing Pigeon Show at the Winter Gardens almost fell foul to deadly H5N1 virus.
But after hours of lobbying and ploughing through legal red-tape, Government ministers finally backed down letting the show carry on, with strict conditions.
And it’s a good job too, as hundreds of pigeon owners, handlers, vets, buyers and bidders will be packed into various auction rooms over the next two days.
More than 2,500 birds will be on show at the event, dubbed the crufts of the winged world.

The show raises hundreds of thousands of pounds for local hotels and traders and is a hit with the exhibitors who flock back to the resort every year.
From humble beginning in a few church halls, the event started in Doncaster in 1973 but soon grew and moved to Birmingham before flying up the M6 to Blackpool and it has come back home to roost in the town every year since.
Apart from the main hall of the Empress Ballroom, various auctions will take place in hotels and pubs across Blackpool with some birds raising up to £2,000. More than 40 volunteers are employed for the weekend.

Brian Mead, chairman of the show committee, said: “This year the preparations have been dealt a blow with the bird flu problem.
“We thought at first it wouldn’t happen what with the mass media blowing it all out of proportion, but it has, it’s been a rush but we are so glad to be back in Blackpool.

“There will be about 2,500 birds here with around 20,000 people checking them out. It’s a big operation to put together but it’s always worth it in the end.”
Exhibitors fly in from as far afield as Malta, Germany and Spain to take part in the annual show - which, in its 29th year here - has raised more than £250,00 for Help the Aged.

Max Hinde, 70, from Urchester Flying Club in Northamptonshire, has brought six Jannsen (C) pigeons for show.
He said: “I have been breeding pigeons for about 60 years and this is my 10th year at the show. It’s a great event and a real showcase for the sport and Blackpool really is the home for racing pigeons.”

After the outbreak of bird flu, the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA), put the pigeon show in the high risk category but after much lobbying, down-graded it to the lower one.

Peter Bryant, event organiser, said: “When it gets to the stage of the birds going on show, the hard work is over. This year has been particularly difficult but lots of hard talk has got the show on the road.

“It;s fantastic to be back in Blackpool, for a short time we didn’t think it would do but DEFRA finally saw sense and gave us the go-ahead.”

Kind regards

Nick Hyde

Nick Hyde - Blackpool Today
by: Nick Hyde

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