Beardfest coming back

Popular beard, mustache contests on tap again at Boathouse

by Tom Coombe
Grow those beards and get those mustaches just right.
After a one-year hiatus, a popular winter event is set to return to Ely next month.
The Great Nordic Beardfest will take place Friday, Feb. 7 at the Boathouse Brewpub.
“We are back,” said Shaun Chosa, who started the event several years ago.
Chosa hosted four Beardfests, attracting dozens of participants and hundreds of spectators to an event that’s a takeoff of sorts on the popular “whisker wars” of television fame.
After a self-imposed “break” in 2019, Chosa said “I’ve recommitted to it, in light of the solid event it was, can be and will be gain.”
“I got a little burned out,”said Chosa. “That’s it in a nutshell. But I had fielded a ton of calls, and had people come back who were interested in being sponsors. If it’s good for the community in a tough time of year for us, I’m all about it. I’d like to see it grow.”
As it was two years ago, the Beardfest will be part of the Ely Winter Festival celebration and will be held as part of the festival’s opening weekend.
This year’s event will be held on just one night instead of two, but Chosa indicated that “we’ll probably go back to a two-night event next year.”
The 2020 Beardfest follows recent contests with first, second and third-place awarded in five categories: Full Beard Natural 6-, Full Beard Natural 6+, Freestyle, Mustache, and Bearded Ladies.
Individual awards will be presented in several categories including two for local residents only - Best Beard in Town, and Best Mustache in Town.
Other awards are Best in Show, Greybeard, Farthest Traveler, Ladies’ Choice, Best Costume and Judges’ Choice.
The contest will begin at 7 p.m. on Feb. 7, with registration starting at 5:30 p.m.
Participants must pay a $35 entry fee, which includes a drink ticket, T-shirt, sticker and lanyard.
Admission for the event is $10, or $5 for those with an Ely Winter Festival pin.
The admission is good not only for the contest, but live music that’s set to start around 8:30 p.m., featuring Black River Revue and Charlie Parr.
Spectators are also eligible for more than two dozen prize bags that will be given away - with prizes donated by area merchants.
Chosa also said that twice during the event, the top hat will be passed to collect donations for Boundary Waters Care Center. The local nursing home was robbed last month, when someone allegedly took funds earmarked for games and art supplies.
More information about the contest including registration materials can be found online at www.greatnordicbeardfest.com. Participants may also pick up registration packets at the Boathouse.
The Beardfest had about 55 participants in 2019, and Chosa is exploring ways to grow the event.
It could include a new venue - perhaps even the renovated State Theater - in the near future but Chosa said he wants to keep some component of the event at the Boathouse.
“If the event is going to grow we need more seats,” said Chosa. “And the new theater needs events.”
An expanded Beardfest in the future may also include a daytime kids’ event, and a tavern team event, with the festival encompassing a weekend.
Chosa is also intent on tying the Beardfest with the Ely Winter Festival.
“We’re really locking in with them,” he said.
The end result is the return of an event that made significant strides in a short amount of time.
“It’s for the good of Ely,” said Chosa.