Bearded & Tschorn: California takes 3 of 4 wins at first nationwide facial-hair faceoff
The Golden State's collective forest of facial hair dominated the first Beard Team USA National Beard & Moustache Championships on Saturday in Bend, Ore., with Californian competitors taking home tonsorial trophies, beard-related bragging rights, and $1,000 each in three of the four judged categories.
Preventing California's sweep of the inaugural event was Germany's Willi Chevalier (although a national competition, rules permitted contestants of any national origin or gender to enter). A multiple-time winner of facial-hair competitions in his home country (where the modern incarnation of the sport has its roots) as well as a several-time winner at the World Beard & Moustache Championships, Chevalier not only took home an award in the freestyle, anything-goes division, but he ...
was also a clear favorite with the crowd of nearly 3,000 spectators, and their wild applause earned him the "Best in Show: Dockers' King of the Whiskers" award -- and a year's supply of khaki trousers.
Over the course of six and a half hours of pogonic pageantry, preening and parading before the judges and a paying crowd of 2,989 spectators gathered under a cloudy sky at Bend's Les Schwab Amphitheater, the field of 189 entrants from 25 states and two foreign countries, was winnowed to a handful in each category, and then to three finalists.
In the first judged category to be announced, Concord, Calif., resident Larry McClure took home top honors for a thin, white mustache he'd waxed out to a three-foot wingspan.
Asked how he felt, the first-time competitor answered: "A thousand dollars richer," with a chuckle. But the surprise win didn't seem to be enough to keep McClure's mustache off the endangered species list. Instead of continuing on the competitive facial hair circuit (which includes the biennial World Beard and Mustache Championships next year in Norway), he's getting rid of the upper lip adornment that takes him nearly 45 minutes to style. "I told my wife I want to cut it off now," he said.
The winner of the partial beard category was a familiar furry face for anyone who followed last year's world championships in Anchorage, Alaska. Top honors went to Toot Joslin of Tahoe City, Calif., the 2009 world champion in the sideburns/muttonchops category (a category he also won at the 2005 world championships). Even so, Joslin, in full Western lawman regalia (and accompanied by his similarly attired grandson Carver) didn't take his win at the national level for granted. "I was surprised," he said afterward. "There were a lot of great beards out there."
Taking home in the full beard division -- by far the largest category both in terms of competitors and sheer volume -- was Willits, Calif., resident Aarne Bielefeldt, who bested Austin, Texas, resident Allen Demling and crowd favorite Devin Cara of Springfield, Mo. (The reigning champion in this category, two-time winner Jack Passion, served as master of ceremonies for the inaugural beard-off in Bend.)
But the undisputed star of the show at the first domestic, nationwide beard and mustache contest -- from the morning's news conference to the last award -- was international bearding superstar Willi Chevalier, who, despite having won on the world stage several times, was competing in the United States for the very first time. (Chevalier reportedly missed the 2003 championship in Carson City, Nevada, after an unfortunate power drill accident, and was a no-show at the 2009 Anchorage competition for unspecified personal reasons.)
By edging out second-place winner Santa Cruz's Paul Beisser -- who took home top honors in the natural goatee category at the 2009 championships -- Chevalier prevented California's complete sweep of the national competition.
After winning the freestyle division, Chevalier, nattily attired in a black-and-white checkerboard tuxedo jacket with black silk lapels, accessorized with a black-and-white walking stick and black bowler hat, addressed the cheering throng through an interpreter. "It's been fantastic, and I am really thrilled to have won here," he said. "I'll definitely be coming back to America again."
Whiskered wannabes of America, you've been given fair warning. Chevalier and the six-prong candelabra that sprouts from his cheeks is coming back to eat your breakfast.
-- Adam Tschorn
Photos: (from top) Larry McClure, left, Toot Joslin, Aarne Bielefeldt and Willi Chevalier are the winners of the first Beard Team USA Beard & Moustache National Championships, held on Saturday in Bend, Ore. Each winner took home a trophy and a $1,000 prize. In addition, crowd applause earned Chevalier the additional title of "Dockers' King of Whiskers" and a year's supply of pants. Credit: Simone Paddock
Paul Beisser of Santa Cruz placed second in the freestyle category. Credit: Adam Tschorn
Crowd favorite Devin Cara doffs his shirt in the final round of judging for the full beard category. Credit: Adam Tschorn