The Franco-Manitoban Cultural Center (dubbed ‘the Voyageur Trading Post’ at this year’s Festival du Voyageur) was invaded by beards of all sizes and shapes on Friday, Feb. 21. There were even people sporting homemade and mechanical beards.
The annual beard growing contest has been a favourite of Festival goers for 32 years. That’s a lot of whiskers.
More than 70 people entered this year’s contest which is also a fundraiser for the Manitoba Heart and Stroke Foundation. The entry fee for the event was $35.00 and participants were asked to get pledges from friends and family. If they raised $100.00 or more in pledges, the $35.00 fee was waived. All proceeds went to the Winnipeg charity organization.
There were four categories this year. The first one was called ‘Festival Beard’ or Clean Shaven (participants had to be beardless as of Dec. 12, the deadline for all categories). The Festival Beard section had the most entrants as three groups of men took turns taking to the stage to be examined by the four judges. This year’s winner was Adrian Zetner with his dark facial hair. Second and third place went to Mitch Bourbonaise and Ron Colony respectively.
The second category was called ‘The Voyaguer’ beard. Rene Comdault won this category, whose greying beard, silk top hat and outfit made him look like a wise voyageur of days gone by.
Second place went to David Perrard, whose beard was groomed by hairstylist Margaret Gannon. Gannon has styled beards for Festival beard contestants for over 18 years. She said she’s lost count of how many men’s beards she has styled or how many first place ribbons her clients have won over the years.
Perrard had an interesting story. He was in a fire last year where he suffered burns to most of his body. Apparently he was sporting a similar bushy beard like the one he had on this day and if it wasn’t for the beard his face would have suffered more burns. 3rd place went to Cam McLennan.
Next up was the ‘Novelty’ category. First place winner, Neal Leithead’s finely groomed beard was another notch in Gannon’s scissor belt. Leithead had the look of a happy sailor man. Second and third place winners were Tony Domienok and Christopher Gottzman. Gottzman and Domienok cheerfully hoisted up the smiling sailor Leithead when he came up for his award.
The last category was the most unusual one. The ‘Open’ category (made up or fake beard). Six women entered this one, with first place winner Kate Nernberg’s mechanical beard being the most unusual beard this festival has ever seen. Designed by Asa Nodelman of The Watch and Spectacle Workshop, the beard consisted of wooden carvings of a boat full of voyageurs at sea with a church on one side of the face and a wind up devil, which Kate made move with a crank on the right side of her face.
Second place winner was still in her pyjamas and didn’t seem to have enough time to brush her white matted beard. Third place winner Bess Hamilton sported the wizard look.
The Manitoba Facial Hair Club, with 15 serious active members and many supporters, was on hand selling T-Shirts. The MFHC has been in existence for two years. Member Don McPhail was quite disappointed that none of his members won anything in this year’s tournament.
“What the #%@$’,” he said bitterly. Admittedly, some of these guys did have some pretty interesting beards, like Warren Lillie with his beard that could hold four beers (sort of like big curlers). And another fellow whose beard looked like an octopus.
Winners received the DVD ‘Men With Beards’ produced by local film producer Dylan Fries, released and featured at Cinemateque last year. Dylan was inspired to to make the film after he and friend Warren Lillie attended the World Beard Championship in Alaska in 2009. Winners also received ‘Men With Beards’ posters and MFHC t-shirts.
Local band Andrew Neville and the Poor Choices, opened the show with a set of upbeat music. They played another set while the judges deliberated on their decisions and played another set after the winners were announced.
All photos by Doug Kretchmer.