By Terence Clarey
According to Burt Mayer, the best way to prepare for a beard contest is to, “Stop shaving.” That, a little mustache wax and a little creativity was good advice, but winning was not the primary goal of contestants at the Somerville Arts Council’s Third Annual Beardfest last Saturday at the Arts at the Armory. The true purpose of the event was to have fun.
“I just like getting together with all these people and hang out for a day.” Mayer said from behind a heavily waxed and curled beard and mustache.
Tom Ward, with a long dark beard hanging from his chin competing in the full natural beard category, echoed those sentiments.
“It’s fun to get together with people you know and drink.”
Started three years ago by the Somerville Arts Council as a part of an overall effort to increase foot traffic in the union Square area, SAC volunteer and Beardfest Co-Producer Todd Easton suggested putting on this event in and it happened at Precinct Bar.
“In 2009, on January 1, I decided not to shave for the year. I made it through the year and I had been volunteering for the Arts Council and I pitched it (to the SAC) and we had 45 competitors packed in the back room of Precinct,” he said.
Looking for a more spacious venue, the event was moved to the Armory on Highland Ave. in hopes of accommodating a larger group of participants and spectators.
The crowd milled around and mingled with contestants enjoying refreshments and music provided by DJ Pace. Attendees were invited to create their own beards and mustaches as well as play “Pin the beard on Mitt or Obama,” whose faces were superimposed on the iconic American Gothic painting.
Although it is a male dominated event, women and those facially folically-challenged people were invited to participate in the fake beard category and create their own looks.
Somerville resident Danielle Miano was happy that she was able to participate, wearing a patriotic red white and blue beard and mustache she said,
“It feels empowering. I’m pretty jealous I can’t grow a beard.” She added. Explaining her choice of faux facial hair she said she was, “Tugging on America’s heart strings. I really hope I win,” she said good-naturedly. She added that the main reason she participates is to see “all the different characters rocking beards.”
For Brian McGregor, dressed as big cat tamer with a stuffed tiger named Lily under his arm, this is his third year of competitive bearding. “It celebrates facial hair,” he said. “The whiskers bring us together.”
The five categories for contestants were Natural Full Beard, Best Partial Beard Freestyle, Best Full Beard, Best Mustache Freestyle, and Best Fake Beard.
The show began with a “parade” of contestants who were then invited individually on stage to show off their beards and mustaches and to answer questions posed by event MC Stu Siegel. Additional questions were asked by the three judge’s panel of Easton, Archibald Query and Elyse Andrews. One contestant was questioned, “What is the most obnoxious thing someone said about your beard?” He answered, “Someone yelled out a car window, ‘Hey Obama Bin Ladin!’”
After the first round, the top three finalists in all the categories were called up to the stage and based on crowd approval, the winners was chosen and the winners received gifts which included a medallion adorned with Todd Easton’s face.
SAC Director Greg Jenkins added, “It’s great that so many people come out. It’s about body art, facial hair, and fun.” Observing the crowd, it appeared that one and all had quite a lot of fun.
Winners were, Best Partial Beard Freestyle – Ben Lewis; Best mustache Freestyle – David Mosher; Best Fake Beard – Becky Gosselin; Best Full Natural Beard – Brian Roy; Best Full Beard – Brad Petrinec; and winner of the bonus category Cold Chowder Eating Contest – John Leonard.