Rock City Rangers 4-H Club

One of the newest groups to join the ranks of organized youth racing Homing Pigeon projects is the Rock City Rangers 4-H Club. The group is assisted and mentored by the North East Dallas Homing Dallas Homing Pigeon Club.

It was over a year ago that Angela Gutilla requested the School Information Packet from the AU. She was gathering helpful teaching materials for her father to utilize for sharing his sport with his grandson's youth group.

Angela, and spokesperson Patty Montagno, shared how they have progressed:

Grandfather John Fontana and grandson 11 year-old, Johnny Gutilla live only minutes apart and have done thousands of fun things together. Now the closeness that has marked their relationship has gotten visibly stronger with the presence of a brand new pigeon loft in little Johnny's back yard.

Johnny is now sharing his grandfather's love for the sport of pigeon flying and it all started with a 4-H club project.

Johnny and his10 year-old friend, Addison Gomez, were attending a regular meeting of their 4-H club. Both boys are active participants in all 4-H club programs.

During the meeting their County Extension Agent, taught the group how to put together a method demonstration. The boys chose pigeons as their project.

" Addison and I decided that it would be fun to give a speech together about what we had learned from our pigeon project," Johnny said.

" We called our Method Demonstration, 'Racing Homing Pigeons' and talked about the history, breeding, banding, training and racing of homing pigeons."

The boys made posters, gathered information and props and borrowed a banding machine from the North East Dallas Homing Pigeon Club.

"Then we practiced and practiced and practiced," Johnny said.

Their first Method Demonstration presentation was at the Rockwall County Fall Round Up.

"We were really nervous but the judges said it was really wonderful and we got a blue ribbon, FIRST place," he said.

" We practiced some more and then entered our presentation into the District 4 Fall Round Up competition."

Johnny said the night before the District competition, Addison broke his collarbone; but was able to accompany his best friend.

"We were both really nervous but we ended up getting FIRST place," he said.

"We felt really good"

Both boys said the really enjoy giving their presentation and in doing so have learned about friendship, hard work and not giving up when something bad happens. "Because, if you do," they said. "You can never reach your goals."

After giving their presentation at a North Texas Concourse, the boys were asked to make a video. The idea was to make the video so other organizations and individuals could learn or benefit form the boy's experiences. It would be used as a marketing and sport promotion tool.

"Together with Addison, his dad, Robert, our County Extension Agent, Todd Williams, our moms and our project leader my grandfather, John we worked very hard to make the video," Johnny said.

So far the boys have distributed the video to the officers of the North Texas Concourse, the American Racing Pigeon Union, the North East Dallas Homing Pigeon Club and the Dallas and Texas Center Ladies Auxiliaries.

"We're hoping for donations to cover some project expenses," Johnny said.

" I think that would be really wonderful. Hard work really does pay off. "

Johnny and Addison said so far the most challenging part of their project were the long hours spent with their families while building their lofts and, of course, waking up at 5 a.m. to train their race team.

"It has been such a blessing to see my dad passing his love and knowledge of racing homing pigeons onto one of his grandchildren," Johnny's mom, Angela said. " Johnny is his namesake and I think that makes it that much more special. Johnny and my dad spend so much quality time together while they are working with the birds and it is wonderful to see the growth in their relationship.

Addison named his loft "Rocket" and Johnny's loft is called the Red Baron Loft (named after Snoopy). He wants to paint a picture of Snoopy riding a pigeon on the side of his loft.

This year the boys have already been scheduled to give their presentations at numerous groups throughout the Metroplex including 4-H Clubs, Boy Scout troops, the Alert Cadets, the H.E.A.R. Home school Group and several other home school groups, several local elementary schools and the Rockwall County and District Fall 4-H Round Up 2006.

" If young people don't learn about pigeon racing, the sport wouldn't exist anymore," Addison said.

"We love it so much that we feel it's our responsibility to tell other kids about racing homing pigeons."

The boys will be racing this season and will be going to the clubhouse every Friday night going to counter mark the birds.

"It will be hard, but fun and we hope to win. If my name was on the sheet in the top ten, I would freak out," Johnny said.

A smiling Addison added, "I'm really excited. Ditto to Johnny."

In order to raise some money to defray the costs, the boys will be selling candles

with their 4-H Club in the fall.

" We get to keep a small portion of the profit for our projects," Addison said.

" It is the only fund-raising our club does because we are busy with school work during the school year."

Their goals for this year include learning more about the birds, their health and loft maintenance and breeding.

" We want to train our birds to trap because last year we did not do this and on race day they wouldn't go onto the landing board very well."

"We hope to get other pigeon flyers involved in teaching kids about racing homing pigeons."

The boys said they have learned responsibility discipline patience, gentleness and good sportsmanship.

"It is a big responsibility to take care of the birds and if we don't they will get sick," Johnny said.

"We have to take care of the birds first before our school work, playing, chores, going places and friends."

"We have learned patience while waiting on the birds on race day because we have to wait for them to come in the loft and can't get frustrated when they land in the field or on the roof. It can take a long time," Addison said.

"We have learned gentleness while holding and caring for the birds and we know that you can't always win. We encourage the winners."

The boys said that if anyone wanted to help them support their project there would be happy to provide a monthly or yearly update and status report.

Addison's parents, Robert and Sandy, have seven children. Johnny's parents, Charles and Angela have five. Both families live in Royse City, TX.

John Fontana is a long-time, successful and well-respected pigeon flyer. Now he stands back and fondly watches his grandson care for his birds, just as he did as a child.

"I'm so proud of these youngsters, I can't even begin to tell you what this means to me," John said. "So many people say our sport is dying; but every time I look at these kids - I see a real future."

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