A festival of facial hair: Beard and mustache competition to raise funds for prostate cancer

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Break out your mustache wax. For the third consecutive year, Front Street Brewery hosts its regional facial hair competition next month. Courtesy photos.
Break out your mustache wax. For the third consecutive year, Front Street Brewery hosts its regional facial hair competition next month. Courtesy photos.

Nothing says manly quite like a well-groomed swath of facial hair.

Front Street Brewery will pay tribute to the freshest and finest selections of masculine accoutrements from across the region–while raising awareness of men’s health issues–during its third annual Lower Cape Fear Beard and Moustache Competition next month.

As in years past, the event, set for Saturday, Feb. 6, will help raise money for–and awareness of–prostate cancer.

The unique idea came about when, brainstorming about charitable benefits, Front Street Brewery marketing director Ellie Craig and associates realized what a craze carefully crafted chin bristles had become. It was right around the time the IFC reality show, “Whisker Wars” hit the scene, and Craig decided to take advantage of the movement.

“And then we really thought we should tie this to a men’s health issue,” she noted.

For Craig, prostate cancer is personal. Her father is a survivor who unfortunately faced some long-term complications following major medical procedures.

Contestants come from as far away as Georgia and Tennessee to compete in the event, which benefits prostate cancer awareness and support groups.
Contestants come from as far away as Georgia and Tennessee to compete in the event, which benefits prostate cancer awareness and support groups.

When she reached out to acquaintance George Gardner–another prostate cancer survivor and head of the local chapter of Us TOO–Craig realized it was the right cause to champion. Us TOO is an international non-profit dedicated to educating men and providing support services to those affected by the illness.

“I was talking to him about my father’s journey…and George said there are a lot of men who go through this. And they just suffer through it because they don’t have a support system,” Craig recalled.

With “all the puzzle pieces” falling together, Craig said the competition was an instant success. From the get-go, it has packed out the 200-capacity upstairs events room, with bearded and mustachioed gentleman–and yes, even some ladies–coming from across the state, as well as South Carolina, Virginia, Tennessee and Georgia, to vie for gold.

“It has really blown us away how involved these people have been,” Craig said.

In two years, the event has raised $5,000 for Us TOO. Craig said 20 percent of those funds have been used to publish informational materials, while 80 percent stays with the local chapter to help it continue its support groups in the tri-county area. Money raised has been used to help pay for attendance and training at a symposium in Chicago, as well as ads encouraging men to get screened for prostate cancer, according to Gardner.

“We would not have been able to reach out in this manner and in other ways without those funds,” he said.

At the heart of its mission is the Chinese proverb, “To know the road ahead, ask those coming back.”

“They’re saying ‘Ask us; we know. We’ve been through it. We’ve had these issues,” Craig said. “These guys give you answers. This gives you a group and a way to do that…You know, this is kind of a taboo thing that men don’t want to talk about.”

It’s a serious subject but Craig said that doesn’t mean it can’t be addressed with some humor and whimsy. The beard and mustache competition does just that, through 14 different competitive categories, the winners of which are decided by a panel of judges. Two of those–“Most Realistic” and “Most Creative”–are designed to get women involved.

“The entries in the ’12 Inches and Over’ category can be pretty impressive…and the ‘Most Realistic’ beards are just that–beards that look real, so they look like bearded ladies,” Craig said. “It’s just a lot of fun.”

The competition even features two categories just for the ladies--Most Realistic and Most Creative.
The competition even features two categories just for the ladies–‘Most Realistic’ and ‘Most Creative.’

And after having a good time and a little friendly competition Craig hopes everyone involved will walk away with a better understanding of a health matter than many men would otherwise feel too manly to open up about.

“Although this is a younger group we attract, at least maybe through this event they’ll know later in life that there is a support network out there for them,” she said.

The Lower Cape Fear Beard and Moustache Competition gets underway at 7 p.m. Doors open at 6:30 p.m. Tickets are $15 for entrants and $10 for spectators. For more information, contact Front Street Brewery, (910) 251-1935.

The local chapter of Us TOO meets at 6 p.m. on the first Thursday in Classroom C of New Hanover Regional Medical Center, 2131 S. 17th St. Men and spouses are welcome to attend and ask questions of survivors about cancer screening, treatment options, non-treatment options, side effects of treatment, long term successes and failures, and to discuss recurrence after treatment. Participation is free.

Hilary Snow is a reporter for Port City Daily. Reach her at hilary.s@portcitydaily.com.