No goatees allowed
October 30, 2004
Jesus had a beard. So did Sigmund Freud and Earnest Hemingway. Even Uncle Jesse from “The Dukes of Hazzard” sported facial fuzz.
The annual Nevada Day beard contest goes far beyond the handsome plaques bearing the likeness of J.P. Jones, Nevada’s longest-serving senator who “liked his bourbon long and straight,” and his beard the same way.
It’s a brotherhood of sorts, made up of the local legends and the lore created by the colorful contestants each year as they climb those steps outside the marbled halls of the Capitol and present their hairy mugs for official adjudication.
One such contestant, no stranger to bearded eminence, “Hippy” John Bartlett of Virginia City, talked with a group of friends on Curry Street before the event.
His secret method of preparation?
“Hippy” John laughed without a smile. “I woke up,” he said.
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Was this his game face? It was hard to tell behind all that hair.
“See you at the steps,” he said curtly.
The official call for beards came from event organizer Charlie Porchia at exactly 1:36 p.m. Saturday, some half-hour after the parade finally wound down.
“This is the first time we’ve had a real P.A. system,” Porchia noted. “We used to have to use a megaphone.”
“I feel so pretty,” quipped Russell Lenhares, grooming his whiskers as he prepared to compete for the title of “blackest beard.”
Porchia went over the rules for the event. There are basically only two. “Each contestant must have a shirt and must be relatively sober.”
Simple enough. Of course, the latter can tough, as any linguist will note, as it is quite impossible to say “beard” without also uttering the word “beer.”
The contestants competed in eight official categories, followed by the last “Most Bearded Community” category, which was basically just a head count.
Nevada Supreme Court Justices Nancy A. Becker and Mark Gibbons served as the official judges.
Winner of the “Blackest Beard” was Jasbir Singh Sandhu, part of Carson City’s growing Sikh population. “After a few second-place finishes in the past,” Sandhu was extremely pleased with his victory.
Neil Oxford of Minden won “Best Groomed” for the second year in a row, his beard a short, clean piece of work that he trims himself.
“I’ll be back next year to defend the title,” he said. “Definitely.”
“Whitest Beard” winner Ray Smith of Virginia City was already smoking a victory cigar.
“I figured I was going to place,” he said. “But I didn’t think I’d win.” As soon as Christmas is over, he said he’s going to shave it all off.
Among a group of latecomers to the event was Virginia City legend Red Dog and his posse.
Red Dog is alleged to have been involved in the last known Wild West gunfight in Virginia City. Wearing a black cowboy hat full of pins and a black leather jacket and jeans, he looked everything the part.
Red Dog took “Scruffiest Beard” without even trying.
Odds-on favorite “Hippy” John Bartlett was upset in his quest for “Fullest Beard” by Gerald Daniels of Gardnerville. After 10 years of entering, Daniels said his persistence finally paid off.
“Never give up,” he said, pondering the victory. Then he said: “I’m gonna go get a vodka.”
“Longest Beard” was snatched up by Keith Alltizer of Minden, whose facial hair measured in at more than 17 inches.
“Reddest Beard” went to Eric Klug of Carson City.
“Salt & Pepper Beard” winner Jatinder Singh of Carson City was “feeling so happy.”
When it was all over, perennial hairy-puss powerhouse Storey County won “Most Bearded Community” with a total of 19 beards. Carson City came in a close second with 18, followed by Douglas County with seven, Lyon County with four and Washoe County with just one beard.
This year’s contest began with Porchia holding up a picture in tribute to the late Ron Williams, a well-known and -liked contestant who recently died.
“I know he’s participating in the beard contest on a much higher level,” Porchia said, looking skyward.
Contact reporter Peter Thompson at email@example.com or 881-1215.