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BEARD UP!

Follicle fanciers face off with fantastic fuzz
by: CHRISTOPHER ONSTOTT Steve Scarpa participated in the 2011 West Coast Beard and Mustache Championships at the Crystal Ballroom dressed as a mobster to accent his massive mustache.

Fans of the facial follicle gathered like whiskers in the sink, celebrating visible manhood in the West Coast Beard and Mustache Championships at the Crystal Ballroom.

To the winners went the riches, and good reason to never again show their freshly shaved faces in public. To others involved, seeing their bearded brethren gave them one more reason to smile at themselves in the mirror each morning.

Being weird, Portland loves facial hair. It ain't just for warmth or hiding something anymore.

Many men and some hearty women think highly enough of their ability to sculpt creative faces to meet monthly as the Stumptown Stash and Beard Collective.

So, it just made sense to put everybody in one room in Portland and allow them to express their vanity in the inaugural event.

It was a resounding success, creator/host Justin Cate says.

'The only contest in the Lower 48 that has surpassed it was the national championships in Bend last year,' Cate says. 'We're trying to create a couple of large events like this; since nationals last year, a ton of small market events have popped up.'

From near and far, they came bearing the 'Natural Mustache' or 'Freestyle Mustache.' There was the 'Partial Beard' of the 'Musketeer,' 'Fu Manchu,' 'Mutton Chops,' 'Alaskan Whaler' and 'Goatee' variety. Also, there was the simple and stated 'Natural Full Beard' or the 'Natural Full Beard with Styled Mustache.' And, of course, all the zaniness of the 'Freestyle Beard.'

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TRIBUNE PHOTOS: CHRISTOPHER ONSTOTT • Above are some of the male - and female - characters participating in the 2011 West Coast Beard and Mustache Championships Jan. 23 at the Crystal Ballroom.

Many of the fuzz-bound had to be regulated, of course. Yes, even they gotta live by the rules.

There were about 100 contestants, including the famed Jack Passion. He's from the Bay Area but he and his 'full natural' call Portland his bearded home. He attends meetings of the Stumptown Stash and Beard Collective. It's always a big deal when an event can attract the likes of a Jack Passion.

'He's won 10 to 15 events in the last couple months,' Cate says. 'He's the biggest name in our sport.'

Indeed, sport.

'There's pride involved, and they're very serious,' says Cate, a competitor himself. 'We had people from all over the country.'

All the categories were filled, Cate says. And, he estimates, 800 to 900 people jammed into the Crystal Ballroom. An itchin' good time was had by all.

'We really blew it out,' he adds.

World championship

The Stumptown collective has about 50 members, about 20 of them hardcore competitors who spend actual time preparing for such events.

'I would say it's the best (club) in the country, if not the world,' Cate says. 'You'd be hard-pressed to find somebody who would argue. We have a half-dozen national champions who attend our meetings. They all told me Portland was a beard mecca.'

Cate wants to help make the West Coast Beard and Mustache Championships an annual event, maybe put on a rotating basis with glitzy Las Vegas, glamorous Los Angeles and facial hair friendly Seattle.

Cate also wants to attend the world championships in Norway in May - yes, there is a world championships - and perhaps lobby for Portland to be considered for the 2015 event. Worlds happen every two years, with the 2013 event scheduled for Germany. Like David Hasselhoff, stash and beard competitions are big in Europe.

'I'm going to talk to the city about possibly sponsoring me to go to Norway,' Cate says.

It sounds like something the city would dive into, face first.