Get Growing: BeardFest is Back

Giveaway announcement: Congratulations to Catherine Maldonado on winning two tickets to this Friday’s ONCE de los Muertos dinner and dancing fiesta! We randomly selected the winner and wish we could’ve given tickets to everyone who wrote to us with their excellent Halloween costumes. If you didn’t win, you can still buy tickets to the event here. Hope you see you there!

The Somerville Arts Council curates dozens of diverse events around town each year, from bringing hundreds of musicians together for PorchFest in the spring to the recent Mini-Maker Faire, which showcased the talent of the local design and engineering community. Now the Arts Council is gearing up for BeardFest, its annual celebration of artful facial hair, which takes place at the Armory on November 3.

The idea for BeardFest, now in its third year, was first spawned in 2009 when the Arts Council decided it wanted to do more events in Union Square during the winter. Todd Easton, who has volunteered with the Arts Council and had participated in beard contests, presented the concept and ran with it. The event was first hosted at Precinct in Union Square, but it quickly outgrew that space and is now held at the Arts at the Armory (191 Highland Ave.).

“The whole idea is working with independent producers,” said Gregory Jenkins, director of the Arts Council. “We handle the permitting and logistical work and they bring their ideas and their energy.”

While BeardFest was popular from the get-go, it likely wouldn’t have happened this year without the drive of Bert Mayer, who won last year’s partial beard category in his first-ever beard contest.

After Mayer’s victory at BeardFest, he began entering more competitions and eventually went on to found the Boston Beard Bureau. Mayer says people participate in beard and mustache contests for a variety of reasons and he’s happy to see BeardFest come back to Somerville this year to further the Bureau’s mission of hosting and attending more local events.

“It’s different for everyone,” Mayer said. “A lot of people [enter beard contests] for the camaraderie … and a lot of events are done for charity. It’s something that sets us all apart. It’s in the same category as body modification. Everyone has a different beard. You can’t have the same beard as another person. Everybody should grow a beard to see what it looks like on them.”

Beard and mustache aficionados can enter the contest in any of the five categories: natural full beard, free-style full beard, free-style moustache, free-style partial beard, (which includes goatees, sideburns and any other creative combination of the above) and best fake beard. That last category was included to encourage children and women to join in the fun.

“[BeardFest] attracts a different crew,” Jenkins said. “Everybody can kind of find a way to participate, which makes it kind of neat. It’s not like being a fine artist, it’s body art. It’s the expression of somebody’s body.”

While day-of entry in the competition is allowed, the Arts Council is encouraging the bearded to enter online ahead of time. Anyone interested in competing can enter here by uploading a photo and answering three short (humorous) questions. And for those looking to participate in the contest, this is a great way to size up the competition.

As a previous winner, Mayer has some advice for those looking to enter this year, “Go all out. The way the competition works, most of the categories are free-style, so throw some wax in your mustache, get some hair spray, try something you’ve never tried before.”


November 3, 3 p.m.-7 p.m.
Arts at the Armory, 191 Highland Ave.
$5 cover charge
Beard and mustache competition, live music and facial hair activities.
Full disclosure: Yours truly is a BeardFest judge. Hope to see you all there!

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