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Bearded out: Follicle festival celebrates all things facial hair

Illustration by Natalie Riess | Art director

Put down that razor.

No Shave November may have been three months ago, but that just means you’ve had more time to grow and groom that masterpiece of facial hair. The best beards, man-sweaters, crumb-collectors — whatever you want to call them — will be on display Thursday at the first-ever Festival of the Fantastical Facial Follicle at the Landmark Theatre from 6:00 to 10:00 p.m.

The Syracuse Beard Council, a collective that promotes the many social and psychological benefits of facial hair in the Syracuse area, organized the event. The festival will feature live music, food, beer, beard-related games and wraps up with a best beard award ceremony. There will be a $5 suggested donation at the door. Part of the proceeds will be donated to the Saint Baldrick’s Foundation, an organization that funds research to find a cure for childhood cancer.

The festival will begin with a performance by Jess and the Beards, a folk and blues band that plays some classic rock covers. Jess Novak — the Jess of the band’s name — said the band was definitely a perfect fit for the festival, besides the obvious fact that they are named The Beards.

“Anyone can have a good time listening to our style of music,” Novak said.

Jess and the Beards also have a special song planned as an ode to beards to please the scruffy crowd.

“It is a great event. People are just looking for fun, artistic and different things to do and this definitely qualifies.” Novak said.

Performances from Remsen Social Club and Dave & Doug of Homely Jones will follow Jess and the Beards. After the live performances and games end, the event will close with the selection of the best beards.

Tracy Tillapaugh, assistant director of SU Career Services, will be one of the judges for the contest. Even though she has no facial hair herself and doesn’t have prior experience in beard competitions, she volunteered when she saw the event on Facebook.

“It looked fun and different and promotes a good cause,” Tillapaugh said.

The six categories include the Forestry, a fluffy beard similar to bearded legend Paul Bunyan; the Fantasy, a long straggly beard, like Gandalf or Dumbledore; the Focus, the more manicured styles of facial fur, such as the chinstrap or mutton chops; the Finery, the stereotypical meticulously trimmed hipster beard; the Feminine, a ladies only category that will crown the woman with the best brows; and the Fighter, a handlebar-style similar to the prototypical turn of the century prizefighter. The use of styling aids will result in immediate disqualification, and in the event that the judges decide there is a tie, the winner will be determined by beard fondling to determine who has the superior hair texture.

Tillapaugh said she will be looking for: “Who can take it to the extreme? How (do) they look? And do they best fit the category?”

Winners will receive handmade whisker-inspired wooden trophies carved by local artist and facial hair fanatic Cayetano Valenzuela, and an assortment of other items that range from clothes donated by Carhartt to tickets for the sold-out Monster Jam show at the Carrier Dome on March 8.

While most will be at the festival to embrace the beard movement, Syracuse resident Ty Marshal will attend the event to promote the hygienic and professional qualities of a clean-shaven face.

“It is unfortunate that gentlemen in the central New York region no longer partake in the best hygiene practices. And then to throw an event, at all places our Landmark Theatre, simply so they can express their love of their own beards is — well, hairy,” Marshal said.

Whether you are for or against the beard movement, have facial hair of your own or are follicle-y challenged, the Festival of the Fantastical Facial Follicle is a one-of-a-kind event.

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