Dan Van Lake
I.F. CHAMPION LOFT, 100 LOFTS AND OVER
For many, the competition in Spring Hill is too fierce. New comers may spend years just trying to reach the top page of the race sheet. For some, the disappointment is more then they can handle and they return back home where the competitive level is more to their liking. But most adjust themselves to the warm weather and the hot competition and enjoy the camaraderie of being among the best in the world.
is, however, one flyer that didn’t fit the conventional mold. He
came; he saw; and he didn’t concur, at least not right away. He
also didn’t pack it in and go home. With all the grit and determination
of fellow Hoosier John Wooden, this man started over from scratch and
redesigned a champion loft in a club full of champion lofts.
As a youthful 70 year old Dan Van Lake had a lifetime of pigeon experience to fall back on. Alfonse Van Lake, Dan’s father, raced pigeon’s in Belgium before immigrating to the U.S. in the early 1900’s. Dan began to race birds himself at the age of 12. As Dan grew older he found himself flying against tougher and tougher competition. Many Belgians were moving into the South Bend area after World War II to work in the Studebaker plant. They all had friends and family back home that could ship over top notch birds to this country. So gearing up to new and better competition is something Dan has had some experience with.
Dan’s initial competitive experience in the land of sun and sand was a bit humbling. Since his old widowhood system didn’t meet his high expectations, Dan developed a new widowhood hen system that had several clear advantages. Dan’s hens didn’t mate up, drop flights or lay eggs. Dan reports that the best part of flying widowhood hens is that they stay in top form for the entire season.
Flying under the loft name ‘Van’s Place’, Dan proved indeed that hens could be flown successfully on widowhood by winning first I.F. Champion Loft, in the 100 lofts and over category. Van’s Place was also twice nominated for the A.U. President’s Cup Award.
Some of the great flyers around the country who sent outstanding birds to Dan, that contributed to him winning back-to-back short average speed awards in old birds were Fahy Robinson (His hen won I.F. Hall of Fame in 2000), Jim Bupp (who sent combine winners), the team of Stymerski/Zack (who sent birds that developed into combine winners as old birds under Dan’s system) and the three champs from Lou Schott.
Dan takes the extra time and trouble to mix and sift his own feed. As a former feed salesman Dan knows that mixes can change abruptly during the season and without notice. Dan says that if flyers don’t sift their feed at home, they run the risk of having rodent droppings and worm castings left in the feed. This can be the often overlooked point of infection for many serious diseases.
Van Lake’s accomplishments in old bird competition are a tribute
to his own personal qualities. Patience, perseverance, hard work and innovation
are all the qualities that we expect to find in our legendary Hoosiers.
Dan Van Lake doesn’t disappoint.