Celeb treatment for bearded men at Donegal contest

J.K. Camp dances a jig for the cheering crowd at the fourth annual Donegal beard contest March 17.

J.K. Camp dances a jig for the cheering crowd at the fourth annual Donegal beard contest March 17. Photo by John Grybos.

— 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.

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