EASTON – The testosterone was pumping Saturday evening, Jan. 14 as many of the area’s most manly men showed off their ability to grow whiskers at Waterfowl Festival Headquarters on Harrison Street.
“Cover Your Chin for Charity” is a wintertime beard-growing contest that is in its fourth year.
It’s the brainchild of Adam Theeke, Andrew Southworth and Joel Shilliday, and started out with a simple joke about facial hair bragging rights.
There are several categories, but the main event requires that contestants start out clean-shaven on October 16.
Proof of this is required with a photo that includes a dated object, such as the newspaper. The clean-shaven photo must be posted on their Facebook page or sent in.
Three months later, contestants strut their burly growth in front of a panel of judges and a large audience that are enjoying themselves sipping cocktails, noshing hors ‘d oeuvres and grooving to music by DJ Erik “Groundhog” Higgins.
Along with growing a full beard, there is a mustache category, a partial beard category, and a category for men with established beards who simply cannot stand to shave off the masterpieces they have cultivated on their faces.
The grand prize winner, “King of the World” is crowned as the beard-grower who earned the highest amount in donations.
Contestants compete with fundraising online, urging supporters to vote for them through donations on the Mid-Shore Community Foundation’s “givezooks” contribution website.
Givers could choose which of three charities they wished to patronize. Donations were closed at noon on Saturday.
This year was the highest record ever with 46 contestants raising over $30,000 — a dramatic increase over last year’s $20,000.
The closing ceremonies at Waterfowl Festival Headquarters is where the winners are announced. Saturday it was packed with more than 100 people.
The first winner announced was the category with firmly established beards.
Adam Theeke emerged victorious, and raged around the stage wearing a horned viking helmet, welding a large weapon and shield to the tune of “Ironman.”
David Ferraris was a smooth James Bond-type, twirling his mustache as he strolled around in a suit with two beautiful women, one on each arm.
Ferraris was winner of the mustache competition.
In the partial beard category, winner John Grow rocked the house in torn jeans, a leather jacket and shades as he strummed his guitar and lip synced George Michaels’ “Faith.”
For the most prodigious full-growth beard and very hairy face, Henner Gibbons-Neff was the victor with his bushy brown whiskers.
Gibbons-Neff, who is a very tall fellow, stomped like Paul Bunyan in work boots, jeans, suspenders and a flannel shirt. He raised a large axe above his head, gave a blood-curdling cry, then ferociously buried it in the stage, several times.
Officials later commented that they would be needing to repair the stage.
The “King of the World” title for the largest amount raised was won by Will Chapman.
Chapman was resplendent in a formal white-patterned suit covered with small black mustaches. His head was covered with a furry bomber hat and his rainbow sunglasses glowed with their own light.
Officials said the competition for the king title was very fierce between three contestants and at one point, they were only $5 apart until the donations officially closed at noon that day.
All winners received a bottle of Lyon Distilling Company rum and a gift certificate to Brasserie Brightwell.
Cover Your Chin for Charity also included a silent auction, raffle and a wide variety of door prizes.
Proceeds from all the fundraising benefit charities for kids, vets and pets.
This year the fundraising recipients were Talbot Mentors with $8,487, the Mental Health Association in Talbot County’s Veterans Emergency Fund with $10,832, and Chesapeake Cats and Dogs pet sanctuary and adoption center received $4,832.
Supporters, when they donated, designated their favorite charity.
New this year, the Nate Southworth Humanitarian Fund was added after the death of Nate Southworth in May 2016.
Southworth was the “Best Full Beard” winner in 2016, a community leader that was involved in dozens of charities. The fund named for him garnered over $5,000 and will be used to help those in need.
Judges for Cover Your Chin for Charity were David Sarfaty, Maggii Sarfaty, Bill Thompson, Jim Brighton, Colleen Brighton and Tracy DiCarlantonio.
Mistress of Ceremonies was Lindsay Grow.
Sponsors included Harris Crabhouse & Seafood Restaurant; Spring & Associates Inc.; Brasserie Brightwell; Orion Safety Products; Lyon Distilling Company; Ewing, Dietz, Fountain & Kaludis, P.A.; Doc’s Downtown Grille; Royal Farms; Rio Del Mar Enterprises; Anne Arundel Medical Group; Carpenter Street Saloon; Rise Up Coffee; Shore Projects; Tammy’s Cool Things and the Shore Smoke Shop; Avon-Dixon Insurance; Bay Capital Mortgage Corp.; Talbot Pro-Wash; Chesapeake Landing; Scott Saunders Coldwell Banker Waterman Realty Co.; Miles River Marine; Robertos Pizza; Faulkner Branch Cidery & Distilling Co. LLC; The Narrows Restaurant; James E. Knox & Son Inc.; Reliable Pest Control; National Premium Beer; Dogfish Head Craft Brewery and others.
The Key Lime Taxi service provided rides to those who needed them after the closing ceremonies, compliments of Cover Your Chin for Charity.
For more information, visit coveryourchin.com.