Last January John DuBois started dreaming about the biggest beard and mustache competition Montana—maybe even the Northwest—has ever seen. His vision of the Western Montana Beard and Moustache Festival, the first regional event of its kind, would turn the tiny town of De Borgia, located about 70 minutes west of Missoula, into the celebratory epicenter for pogonotrophy purveyors and admirers alike. There'd be live bands, golf, fly-fishing trips, venders and crowds. All 18 categories would be filled and carefully scrutinized by a panel of well-groomed judges.
"We thought people would jump on this thing," says DuBois, who doesn't happen to have any facial hair. "But as of last week we were seriously thinking of shutting it down for lack of interest. We only had one registrant."
One would think the Rockies would be crawling with mountain men eager to flaunt their Verdis or Musketeers. DuBois marketed from Butte to Whitefish and Helena to Spokane. He advertised on various college campuses, built a website and a Facebook page, and even contacted a couple of beard clubs. No one signed up.
Maybe it's bad luck, or the time of year, considering only the most resolute keep a full beard in mid-July. DuBois has his own theories.
"It could be just a male thing. It's hard for a person that has a beard, which is a very personal thing to him, to get up on stage and have someone say, 'Well, that's not really a great beard, that's more like a third place beard,'" DuBois says.
Despite the obstacles, DuBois has stuck to his plans. He approached bearded and mustachioed men at the St. Regis Fair and elsewhere, and successfully found competitors. He also still intends to hold a Whiskerinas competition for women; fake beards can be made of anything, from polyester to flowers. The full festival is scheduled to take place at the O-Aces restaurant in De Borgia, beginning July 12.
The first year might not be the grand vision DuBois originally hoped, but if it can generate some momentum he plans on making it an annual event, with perhaps a few minor changes.
"Maybe we'll do it in late fall, when it's easier to grow a beard," he says.