Move over, Movember. It’s time for Decembeard.
Festival du Voyageur’s 32nd annual beard-growing contest will kick off Thursday night at Le Garage Café at 166 Provencher Blvd. It takes place from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m.
Neal Leithed, who won the Novelty Beard Division title a year ago, has been growing his beard all year in preparation.
"I used to let it grow all wild," said Leithed. "But now I’ve been growing strong with a little bit of grooming technique.
"I got this product from my brother, it’s a leave-in beard conditioner... makes the beard soft and smells kind of nice."
Leithed was approached in 2012 by his friend, Margaret Gannon, a hairstylist at H202 Salon, to enter the competition.
"It was a lot of fun and there was some good camraderie between the contestants. There were a couple people who were a bit on edge about it too, rival hair dressers who wanted their contestants to win," he said.
The beard-growing contest has four sub-categories: Voyageur, for those with wild and wooly beards; Novelty, for groomed coifs; Festival, for those who start clean shaven and collect donations for the Heart and Stroke Foundation as they grow; and the Open category, which is up for interpretation.
"We’ve started the open category in hopes we’ll be more inclusive with everyone," said Julien Desaulniers, Festival du Voyageur’s artistic producer.
Desaulniers said people incapable of growing beards are free to get crafty within the open division.
A panel of local experts will judge contestants’ beards on Feb. 21, 2014 at the Centre Culturel Franco-Manitobain.
They grade beards on a scale of one to 10, based on four criteria: beard length, design, colour and texture.
Leithed said the key to growing and maintaining a brag-worthy beard is commitment.
"It depends on how fast your beard grows, but the first 10 to 20 days are kind of painful, because you don’t really know if you look good or not," he said.
"But (the contest) is basically an excuse to have your beard going through all these awkward stages and to get away with it."