Beardhampton at Divas: Battle of the Best

Photo by Carolyn Brown '16 | A Beardhampton attendee shows off her uniquely created beard at the Beardhampton Festival.

Photo by Carolyn Brown ’16 | A Beardhampton attendee shows off her uniquely created beard at the Beardhampton Festival.

 

Kyle Kaplan ’15
Arts Editor

This past Saturday night, men and women from seven states traveled all the way to Northampton to win the battle of the beards. The Beardhampton Festival at Divas marks the first year a contest of this kind has been hosted in the Valley. “There’s actually a hotel where people are styling their beards before the competition,” vendor Jenny Arruda explained after showing me the facial hair-inspired crafts she had for sale before the contest began. She went on to say that her husband, Joseph Arruda, runs “The Beards of New Bedford,” which is one of many beard guilds on the East Coast responsible for the considerable turnout.

First time competitor Don Alsombright said he learned of Beardhampton through a post on the Boston Beard Bureau’s homepage. It was advertised as a charity event with all proceeds going towards the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, and attendance to the contest would also give support to the BBB, which made Beardhampton possible. Bert Mayer, the guild’s founder as well as the event’s coordinator, formed the Boston Beard Bureau along with others who wanted a place where men, women “and all manners of space aliens” could appreciate the majesty of an awesome beard, as stated on their website’s “About” page. He introduced the idea of Beardhampton six months ago and said that he’s been a beard enthusiast “since he could grow facial hair.”

Although Mayer did not participate in the competition, he acted as scorekeeper for its eight categories for facial hair, which fell under two types: natural and freestyle. According to Beardhampton’s emcee, Shaun Connolly, one of the more intriguing categories had a length requirement: “‘Groomed Full Beard’ means the beard has to be under six inches,” Connolly noted in an interview. He also mentioned that the fake beard competition, for those who are unable to grow beards, has been around for a while. Many competitors, including Bert Mayer’s cousin-in-law, Melissa Laprae, came with beards made out of everything from bottle caps to pipe cleaners. In addition to making a beard for herself, Laprae, who is pregnant, also taped a blue and pink one to her stomach. “We don’t know if our child will be a boy a girl,” she explained, “so that inspired the color scheme for the baby’s beard. Mine has the shape of a music note in it because I love music.” When asked why her husband wasn’t competing, she said that he typically has a beard, but had to shave it off for a work event.

The show started at 8 p.m. and began with Connolly, a stand-up artist, introducing the judges. Four people, who were all either Mayer’s friends or family or Northampton locals, were responsible for not only observing but also touching the facial hair they would rate on a scale from one to five. One of the judges was the owner of Haven Body Arts, Penelope Silverstein, who used to DJ at Divas (and still does from time to time). Another was a member of The Devil’s Twins, one of the three bands that would play that night.

Starting with the category “Natural Mustache,” Southampton-born Dan Laprae had his product-free mustache honored with a plastic golden baby emerging from a plaque after he received a high score from the judges. Connolly mentioned that Beardhampton is “like sixth grade soccer,” as everyone won a prize of some sort. The competition went on until midnight, with all 70 registered competitors walking away with honors for their mustaches and beards.

According to 22 WWLP news, “beard contests have been big in Europe for years,” probably because of the beard fans they bring together, many of whom will hopefully return to Northampton for another competition next year.

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