SHIPPENSBURG – More than 65 men and women faced off in the third annual Bearding Man event Saturday at the Thought Lot. The event raised over $700 for the Franklin Learning Center.
Participants competed in 14 primary categories ranging from Partial beards to Wizard beards, which were evaluated and ranked by a panel of judges. The winner of each category advanced to the final round, where attendees voted for the grand prize winner, the “Lord of the Beard.”
This year’s winner was Jarrod Greene who entered in the category dedicated to natural beards shorter than 2 inches, also known as the Work Beard category, and left having achieved beard glory.
Adam Crabill, the director of Bearding Man 2016, said the event is an opportunity to get the local and not-so-local bearding community together for a good cause. Competitors came from as far away as Hagerstown, Mechanicsburg and even Connecticut.
He also explained some of the criteria the judges considered.
“When it comes to natural, you’re looking for length, fullness, consistency,” he said. “When you’re looking at freestyle, you’re looking for creativity, original, outside-of-the-box thinking. For fake beard, we actually have two criteria: how realistic can it look or the other side of that is how crazy is it?”
This year there was a new category dedicated to Teacher Beards that was inspired by the Franklin Learning Center.
“Because we’re benefiting an educational program, we actually opted to have a teacher category,” he said.
Katy Nefflen, a special education teacher at the Franklin Learning Center, won second place in the Fake Beard category with a beard made of rulers, pencils and other school supplies.
“Franklin Learning Center is a school for individuals with special needs, and it goes from pre-school all the way up through age 21,” she said. “It’s for all of the districts of Franklin County plus Shippensburg and a few others.”
Her husband, Ben Nefflen, was the emcee for the event and a competitor in the Partial Beard category. He said the money raised at Bearding Man would likely be used for assistive technologies such as iPads, but could be used for whatever the teachers need to suit the needs of their students.
Brian Tyler teaches fifth grade in Queen Anne’s County, Md., and was entered in both the Teacher Beard category, in which he took first place, and the category for beards longer than 10 inches.
He has had some sort of facial hair for the past 16 years - usually trimmed to a working beard - but for the past three years he has focused on growing it out for fun but also as a life lesson for his students.
“I love being an elementary school teacher,” he said. “Being able to change perception and letting people know that we are not just weird people with beards. We are professional. I’m changing perception everyday with my fifth graders and with their parents about long beards.”
Tyler heard about Bearding Man through the Mad Vikings Beard Co., an international beard and moustache club. Before the competition started, Tyler had already spotted nine other representatives from the club who had come out to support the good cause.
This year Tyler competed in natural categories, which means he wasn’t permitted to use any special treatments or decorations, but his daily regimen includes a variety of balms, oils and combs.
On the other end of the spectrum, Edward Burns of Mechanicsburg spent about two hours and a lot of extra-firm hairspray to create a gravity-defying beard formation that earned him second place in the Freestyle category. Going beyond the beard, he wore a black and white suit patterned with silhouettes of handle-bar moustaches and beards.
“I came in third in the Freestyle last year, and I knew from last year that I needed to step it up a little bit,” he said. “Showmanship. Beardsmanship. The whole nine yards. So I went all out this year.”
Even in the Fake Beard category, strategy and presentation are important.
This was Kateri Fikar’s first year competing in Bearding Man, and her realistic looking fake beard took second place. First place went to a woman whose beard included electric lights.
“It’s just matching the hair color and getting it glued on correctly so that it does look real,” she said. “Matching my hair color makes it all the more believable. It’s also real, human hair.”
Her husband, David Fikar, thinks it’s great that his wife participates in the competition. David came in third place in the category for beards longer than 10 inches.
“The beard community is a great, friendly community,” said Kateri. “It’s a lot of good, clean fun.”
One of the more famous faces on the judging panel was Vermin Supreme who is known as a fringe presidential candidate and a performance artist, but he also described himself as a prankster and inspirational speaker.
“I’ve been brought down as a celebrity guest judge, so I will do my best not to be swayed by temptation or offered bribes,” he said. “I’m hoping to get in there really close and look at those beards.”
Supreme was also impressed with Bearding Man’s inclusive nature.
“Women aren’t really given a fair break in the competitions, so I really appreciate that this particular Bearding Man competition does, in fact, offer the bearded ladies an opportunity to compete,” he said. “It offers the categories of fake beards, and that allows even the kids to participate. So I think that’s a really nice thing about Bearding Man itself – the opportunity that it is family friendly and encourages everybody to join in.”
“There’s a great resurgence in beards,” said Supreme. “They’re coming back strong.”
Bearding Man 2016 was presented by Barbatus Grooming a Pittsburgh-based company that makes handcrafted wooden beard combs and all-natural beard oil. Musical intermissions were performed by Philadelphia-based City Rain. Ink and Ashes Tattoo and Art Studio was on-hand giving tattoos – the special of the night was $25 finger moustaches.