Beardfest packs them in

Nearly 70 competitors, sell-out crowd at the State Theater

by Tom Coombe
More music, a new venue and a packed house made for perhaps the best Great Nordic Beardfest yet.
The eighth annual event was held last weekend after a one-year hiatus and with a few new wrinkles, including a Saturday night finale at Ely’s Historic State Theater before a sellout crowd.
Nearly 70 competitors took part over the two-day event, which started at the Boathouse Brewpub Feb. 4 before moving up Sheridan Street to the theater
Organizer Shaun Chosa promised the biggest Beardfest yet and he delivered, with big crowds cheering the competitors both nights, and with the beard and mustache contests augmented by fundraisers as well as musical acts, including three on Saturday.
More than 200 tickets were sold at the theater.
“The State Theater’s capabilities were stressed but they did awesome, and showcased an excellent sound system,” said Chosa. “It also showcased what the theater can be used for besides movies.”
Overall, there were 68 competitors, with 31 the first night and 37 on Saturday.
The event has had as many as 53 participants on a single night, but Chosa said he believed that Covid-19 may have had an impact on participation numbers.
But despite the pandemic, the event still drew dozens of participants and hundreds of loyal fans, who cheered on the competitors and listened to musical acts including Charlie Parr and Waffle House Melee.
At the Boathouse, the event opened with the Great Nordic Throwdown, featuring an elimination style tournament with crowd participation.
Beard Division champion was Aaron Berg of Cambridge, with Robert Edwards of Thief River Falls first in the Mustache Division.
For Saturday’s Beardfest, champions and place winners were:
Full Beard Natural 6+
1. Nolan Dyrdal, Thief River Falls;
2. Rick Simmons, Ely;
3. Steve Yatckoske, Nett Lake;
Full Beard Natural 6-
1. Nick Furnstahl, Ely;
2 Sean Williamson, Thief River Falls;
3. Joe Otto, Spencer, Iowa;
1. Jason Schafer, Brooklyn Park;
2. Jamin O’Malley, St. Paul;
3. Tim Stouffer, Ely;
Bearded Lady
1. Jess O’Neil, Coon Rapids;
2. Heaven Heard, Thief River Falls;
3. Jill Michels; Bigfork;
Partial Beard
1. Eric “Torgils” Mord, Minneapolis;
2. Tim Seeger, Hudson, Wisc.;
3. Brice Wieg, Thief River Falls;
1. Devon Grandbois, Minneapolis;
2. Robert Edwards, Thief River Falls;
3. Evan Faltesek, Minneapolis;
Best in Show - Jake Cline
The Traveller - Clay Tripplett, Shreveport, LA;
The Greybeard - Steve Yatckoske, Nett Lake;
Ladies Choice - Jess O’Neil, Coon Rapids;
Best Costume - Jess O’Neil, Coon Rapids;
Best Beard in Town - Eric “Torgils” Mord , MInneapolis;
Best Mustache in town - Robert Edwards, Thief River Falls.
Each Beardfest includes a charity component, with Ely Community Resource selected this year as the beneficiary. The organization hauled in about $500 from the event, Chosa said.
Also new this year is the first Great Nordic Beardfest Sunrise Scholarship.
It will be aimed at graduating Ely youth who have overcome adversity and turned things around in one way or another.
This year’s award winner is Matt Janeksela, a senior at Ely High School and one of the Ely choir members who helped open Saturday’s festivities by singing the national anthem.
Chosa has talked about growing the event even further. Future expansion could include a Thursday evening event as well as day events and those involving children.
More information can be found online at www.greatnordicbeardfest. com.