There were eight champions crowned at the Prince Albert Wildlife Federation Hall on Sunday, and almost every one of them had the facial hair to prove it.
Judges selected the best beards and mustaches in Prince Albert on the final day of judging at the Prince Albert Winter Festival Beerd Derby. Beerd Derby chair Doug Erickson said that the event was a success and seems to keep growing each year.
“It’s really taken off,” Erickson said. “In fact, we are looking for a way to try and grow it just a little bit more.”
Erickson said the Prince Albert Wildlife Federation is a “major, major, sponsor” of the Beerd Derby. They have an arrangement with Great Western Brewing, which in turn sponsors the Beerd Derby.
“We can only grow as much as the facility will handle,” Erickson said. “We have to have planned and strategic growth, so we will grow a little bit again next year and keep it going.”
The winners of this year’s event were Dave MacAuley in Amateur Mustache, Colin Cournane in Amateur Miscellaneous, Tyler Gerstner in Amateur Full Bush, Justin Jonasson in Pro Mustache, Trevor Ruthven in Professional Miscellaneous, Glen Gyoerick in Professional Bush, David Sinclair in PPE and Randi Gyoerick in the Ladies category.
The PPE category was for people who could not grow facial hair due to their job and was done by a draw. The Ladies category was also done by a draw.
Judging was done by co-chair Ian Litzenberger, Great Western representative Tyler Redyl, longtime and current competitor Kent Tomlinson, and Danielle Collins from Hair and Beyond.
The Beerd Derby was initially a signature part of the Winter Festival in the late 1960s and early 1970s when it was sponsored by the former Molson brewery in Prince Albert.
At its lowest point, Erickson estimates maybe six or seven people participating in the Beerd Derby.
“The Beerd Derby never really died,” he said. “After the old Molson’s plant closed in Prince Albert there were, believe it or not, a half a dozen or so guys that tried to keep it going. But a few years ago it was down to a dwindling, ‘it might as well not happen’ event.”
To revive the event, Erickson negotiated with Great Western Brewery in Saskatoon to bring life back to the Derby.
“Our first year we had 20 something guys and then word caught on and then it jumped up to 60 some guys and now we are actually just over 100 members,” Erickson said.
They set a goal last year to have 120 members for the competition and came close in 2023.
“We could have actually hit our goal but we tried a different approach last year with the registrations, we tried to create that sense of urgency and we did cut registrations off on Dec. 1 and we did probably get another 12 or 13 people that made inquiries after Dec. 1, but we had written the rule that that was the way it was going to be, so they will be invited now. Those 12 or 13 people will be invited to next year’s Beerd Derby,” Erickson said.
Organizers also plan to stay connected with competitors, a practice they began last year. Erickson said it helped generate enthusiasm for the competition, and that bodes well for the future.
“I will guarantee you 100 per cent of the people that are here tonight if I asked them to pay next year’s registration fee for next year they would,” he said. “It’s too much fun not to carry on.”
During the peak years, when the Derby was hosted by Molson, there could be up to 300 entries.They have also expanded by adding the Ladies Hairiest Legs competition and the PPE.
“We are in a new era in time now and it used to be just men,” he said. “A lot of the women that are here tonight are the wives of male contestants, so we created what we call the Hairy Leg competition, more or less as a joke believe it or not, as part of the Beerd Derby. It was an opportunity for the women to participate, so that husbands and wives or boyfriends and girlfriends can enjoy a few evenings together and have a really good time.”
Major sponsors for the event included the Prince Albert Wildlife Federation, Lake Country Co-op, Phantom Light Distillery, Canadian Tire, Great Western Brewery and Mann Northway.
“It’s not just Great Western Brewing and Phantom Light Distillery but Canadian Tire is huge, Co-op is huge and Mann Northway the Car Guys came on board this year and added to the pool,” Erickson said.
“Basically it enables us to be able to provide the fun that we are able to provide for these people and the low registration fee.”
Litzenberger, who manages the Lake County Co-op Liquor Stores in Prince Albert will be staying on as co-chair of the Beerd Derby.
“It’s a pretty good deal,” Erickson said. “I mean, you pay your $50 registration fee, you get a hoodie, you get seven nights of beverage and food and you get a banquet like this and a prize at the end of the night.”
The Beerd Derby also has a Facebook page to keep up to date on the happenings throughout the year. Anyone with questions about the Beerd Derby can reach out to the Prince Albert Wildlife Federation by calling 764-8970, or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.