SPRING HILL, Fla. -- Frank Varriello has been involved in pigeon racing since he was nine years old.
“A racing pigeon is like a greyhound dog, it’s a very pedigree pigeon,” said Varriello.
In the pigeon racing world, you can face a number of setbacks.
“Between telephone wires, hawks or the bird is just stupid, you just lose him,” said Varriello.
However, nothing compares to what happened on October 17. Fifty-two of Varriello’s birds, while caged in the back of a truck, on the way to a training exercise, were involved in crash.
“Turned over three times, and most of the birds were killed or destroyed because of the accident, those that came home were traumatized, they are still traumatized,” said Varriello.
Now, the 82-year-old man and his team are hungry to return to the skies, training once again, this time for the Gulfcoast Homing Club Classic in Spring Hill December 4. A 350-mile race.
More than 2,500 pigeons will enter the race from across the country, with the winning team flying off with a $50,000 grand prize.
“Some of them are breathing heavy, they probably got some respiratory problem, it looks like they need a little more training,” said Varriello following a morning training session.
He said winning is great, but he’s just proud his birds have returned to doing what they were born to do… and that’s find their way home.
“For these birds that were in the accident, to come through on a 350 miles race and win it, out of 2,500 birds, I would be ecstatic,” said Varriello.