It’s the middle of the afternoon on a hot August day. I am overdressed, but that’s not why I’m sweating.
In two short hours, I take the stage to host the inaugural Germanfest Picnic Facial Hair Contest, and as of this moment I have no contestants, no judges, no prizes, no way to get in touch with my contact at the park (we had previously only spoke via Facebook) and no clear idea how I was going to pull this off. How did this happen? I’m usually so diligent about these kinds of things. In short, I did what most people do, right before they screw up.
I got comfortable.
You see, the Germanfest competition was relatively modest in scale, compared to what I and my group are accustomed to organizing. For three consecutive years, we band of brothers, acting under the banner of Beard Team Ohio, had put together elaborate beard competitions; large scale events featuring retailers, games, music and attractions, with contestants from all over the United States, and attendance numbering in the hundreds. They were more than just pageants of manliness, they were full-blown carnivals, celebrating the community, experience and lifestyle of growing and appreciating facial hair.
This, on the other hand, was one of many Dayton-area culture festivals, and was held at our local Carillon Historical Park. While it is a great event and there were hundreds in attendance, we were not the main attraction, and it’s no stretch to say that most of the crowd had no expectation of a beard contest at all. We were to be an intermission between sets of music, more or less. I guess, as odd as it sounds, we just weren’t prepared to throw a humble beard contest. It’s not in our nature to do it any way but big. It’s the middle of the afternoon on a hot August day. I am overdressed, but that’s not why I’m sweating.”
It’s the middle of the afternoon on a hot August day. I am overdressed, but that’s not why I’m sweating.”
So here I am, roasting in the summer sun, having essentially taken the responsibility for this event all on myself, and having dropped the ball. And then it happened. I remembered what is possibly the most valuable and humbling lesson I’ve learned in my years spent as a member of the facial hair community: When the shit hits the fan, there is usually another beard around to soak up some of the mess. Sure enough, I remembered that my buddy Jake and his wife Sarah are loyal members of the local German club which hosts the event, and that every year they serve delicious beers from one of the vendor stations. Within a few minutes, and with the help of my bearded search and rescue team, I had located Jake, and he pointed me in the direction of my contact at the park. Finally, some progress.
She gave me information about stage logistics and time constraints, and sent me on my way. Alright, now I had at least confirmed that the competition was indeed happening. Now, to drum up some participants. It was going to take one hell of a cocktail to get a decent crowd together, but luckily I had the recipe.
Ingredients: 1 pocket-sized pad of paper, stained with beer from an earlier incident, 1 normal-sized pen, 1 crew of bearded foot soldiers, eager to help
Directions: Combine ingredients in medium-sized historical park. Stir for an hour and a half, pausing occasionally to wipe brow and rehydrate with German beer. Result should be a salty mixture of both enthusiastic and hesitant beard competitors. Pour mixture over tented stage for the better part of an hour. Repeat as needed.
Just like that, voila! Using our legendary powers of persuasion (read: harassing bearded strangers until they agreed to follow us into a tent), we had accumulated enough brave hirsute gentlemen to fill out 3 solid categories: Best Moustache, Best Short Beard, and Best Long Beard. All that was left now were the tasks of securing judges and prizes for the winners. Now, during this time I had been relying, as I often do, on my dear friend Thomas to supply these two elements, but up to this point I had yet to hear from him that day, which was unusual. Being the mad scientist that he is, I suspected that perhaps he had stayed up all night working on his army of bearded robot-butlers, and had overslept into what was now the late afternoon. So I did what any respectable member of Generation Y would do in a crisis: I sent him a text message.
Within a few moments, his frantic reply confirmed my suspicion, and he was on his way. With mere minutes to go before we took the stage, in rode my savior, with two mighty sacks of beard prizes under his arms, like Santa Claus on a gilded unicorn. At last, the final pieces of the puzzle had fallen into place. I quickly tapped him and two of my other dear friends and club members as judges, took the mic, and stepped out before my cautiously optimistic audience.
What can I say? It went well. The crowd was receptive, the contestants were strong and playful, the stage techs were on top of things, and I even had several people come up to me later to tell me that they thought I was really entertaining as the emcee. We crowned the inaugural Germanfest Beard and Moustache Champions, got some laughs, and were even invited back for a repeat performance the following year as we left the stage. Against all odds, our beards flapping amidst the mighty winds of uncertainty, we had pulled it off.
Looking back, there is a lot I should have done differently. I should have done more promotion leading up to the event. I should have been more thorough in my communication with the event staff, and my crew of helpers. I should have established a more stable method of pre-registration. But, like all of history’s great procrastinators, I have an excuse. It was my birthday! That’s right, this whole event was cast in the dim shadow of my 26th birthday, and who wants to juggle such lofty responsibilities on their birthday, right? And so, we left the stage, high-fived, hugged and toasted to a job well done, and adjourned to a night of debauchery. But that’s a story for another time…
In the end, I’m thrilled with the way I spent the first day of my 26th year: Surrounded by the people I love most, drowning in a sea of whiskey, beards, and modest applause. Any man should be so lucky.
Nate Stevens Orator & Co-Founder of the Gem City Gentlemen of the Gilded Beard, Beard Team Ohio
Photos: Branden Tussing
Learn more about Nate and the Gem City Gentlemen of the Gilded Beard by visiting them at gemcitygentlemen.com. Also, check out our past How To Grow A Moustache Feature Interview With The Gem City Gentlemen Of The Gilded Bearded here.
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