J.K. Camp dances a jig for the cheering crowd at the fourth annual Donegal beard contest March 17.
As the crowd roared for the competitors to ham it up, flashbulbs popped and eager hands stretched out for a chance to touch the glorious growth displayed by entrants in the fourth annual Donegal beard contest March 17.
The field was heavy with local talent, many from North Creek, Chestertown and Minerva. Serena May is the only four-year veteran of the contest’s judging panel. The other two judges are pulled from the crowd and given the chance to decide the fate of the Chia-chinned contestants.
“It’s all about style,” said May. Not simply style, she clarified, but swagger. The contestants need to work the crowd for maximum points.
Returning champion Dan Meehan put much of his effort on style, wearing a leprechaun costume in bright green from his clover-colored top hat to his emerald knickerbockers.
Meehan said he was disappointed with the growth he managed this year. Though thick, he worried that the warm weather didn’t stimulate his beard to grow as luxuriously as his championship Donegal.
Todd Utley also didn’t cultivate a bumper crop this winter. He came out for his second year, and though his beard wasn’t as impressive as some of the competition, Utley said it’s the good-time atmosphere that gets him involved.
“Just ’cause I can’t grow it doesn’t mean I can’t show it,” he said.
J.K. Camp was enjoying a brew on the patio next to Utley. He’s come every year, and called himself the Original Donegal. He placed second in the first year of competition.
Camp looked at a burly, black-bearded man next to him and marveled, “It’s like a bear parked on his face.”
The bear-faced fellow didn’t want to disclose his real name, confiding that he wasn’t supposed to be at the celebration.
He decided to compete as Mantis Toboggan, though he was despondent on his chances. He placed second the last two years running despite his wiry, Wooly-Willy beard. This year, he won the contest.
“I refuse to wear a costume, that’s why,” said Toboggan. “It’s the man that makes the beard, not the costume.”
The entrants lined up just outside the barroom, and paraded into the building one by one while the announcers emceeing the event were drowned out by the exuberant onlookers.
Strutting into the bar from the patio, Dan Pratt, who finished in second place, got loud cheers from the ladies in the audience. The bear-faced Toboggan’s fans were more deep-throated, as the fellows in the audience cheered on the manly beard.
In a quieter costume than Meehan’s leprechaun, Jack Leggett placed third, taking the victory for style. He said he scavenged much of his apparel from the thrift shop at the town dump.
Judge Lindsey Duval said it was really tough to pick out a victor, but fullness was the deciding factor this year.
Second at third places earned some novelty shirts and gift cards for the restaurants, and the best-bearded Toboggan took home the coveted bottle of Jameson.
“Everybody saw through the gimmick,” said Toboggan, who displayed his Irish trophy proudly, “and saw the beard for what it was.”