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International media flock to Carson for beard contest

Karl Horeis

Carson City’s Nevada Day celebration got pretty hairy Saturday with hundreds of contestants in town for the World Beard and Mustache Championships.

“I had no idea how big it was going to be,” said Donn Leyba of Red’s Old 395 Grill which catered the event. Red’s also hosted a Friday night Halloween party for the spectacularly hairy contestants.

“There were hundreds and hundreds of them,” Leyba said.

It was the first time the biennial WBMC had come to the United States. In years past it had been held in Germany, Sweden and Norway.

Saturday it was held in the Carson City Community Center. While the Nevada Day fireworks exploded over Mills Park fuzzy-faced Swedes, Austrians, Germans and Americans mingled at long tables.

Groups performed the chicken dance on stage to live music from the Al Gruber Band.

“We’ve got some cultural exchange going on,” said Mike Biscarret of Oregon Wild Hair Mustache Wax, a vendor. “They’re going around signing each other’s banners.”

Martin Trendle from Switzerland, who wears an award-winning Salvador Dali-style mustache, was hanging out with competitors from Italy.

Rocco Bentivoglio had never been to America.

“(America’s) reputation in Italy is not good, but I came because in the whole of the world we are meeting friends – friends with beards,” he said through an interpreter.

International media crews and film students collected video footage. Reuters camera operator Krystian Orlinski was leaning against a massive camera in front of the main stage. He said he liked Carson City.

“I love the surroundings and the people are very friendly,” said the Polish native.

Meghan Leon from Memphis, Tenn. brought a crew out from New York University where she studies film.

“I’m doing a documentary about facial hair called “Of Mustaches and Men,” she said. She heard about the WBMC on National Public Radio.

Other media in the community center Saturday night included London’s “Saturday Telegraph Magazine,” L.A.’s Game Show Network, Swedish Public Television, North Lake Tahoe’s FireLight Films, Neema Productions from Oakland, Calif., students from the Rochester Institute of Technology and Brainbox Productions from Maryland, which filmed a documentary about a paraplegic Indian Hills man last winter.

“The American media has kind of turned their noses up to this event but there’s been an amazing turnout from European media,” said media coordinator Stone Roberts.

The event was brought to town by Phil Olsen of Tahoe City. He, too, was disappointed by the lack of regional support.

“The event was a success despite the almost non-existent support of the community.”

He was sorry more local people didn’t attend.

“This was intended to be an event that would be beneficial to Carson City from the very beginning,” he said.

Of about $23,000 invested in the event, Olsen said only $400 came from local organizations. The Carson City Convention and Visitor’s Bureau bought a $300 advertisement and the Pinion Plaza bought one for $100.

The next WBMC will be held in Berlin in 2005 then it moves to London in 2007.