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Come for the beer, stay for the beards

Sporting a pointy mustache stretching 15 inches from tip to tip, Andrew Huston acknowledged his elaborate facial hair can sometimes pose challenges.

"It takes practice getting used to eating. Always ask for lots of napkins," he advised.

A Grants Pass resident who has entered mustache contests from Pennsylvania to California, Huston was one of dozens of men and several women taking part in Southern Oregon's own Battle of the Beards (and Mustaches) at the Ronky-Tonk Saloon & Grill in downtown Medford on Sunday.

The event was part of Medford's Beer Week, which runs through Saturday, June 14.

While most of the men had spent at least a year painstakingly growing out their beards and mustaches, the women took shortcuts.

Sharyce Bracewell, also of Grants Pass, said her beard-sporting husband inspired her to enter the contest. She adorned herself with a cascading white Santa's beard she ornamented with scrunchies and sea shells.

"It's a sea captain or Poseidon," Bracewell said of the look she was attempting to capture.

Christyna Thomas of Ashland stuck a store-bought mustache to her upper lip and used double-sided tape to adhere her own long hair to her face in order to make a beard. She said her father had a handlebar mustache.

Fellow contestant Erika Lippert cleverly used bearded lichen to fashion a profuse beard.

Medford resident Nick Dunn, who spent a year growing his auburn beard and mustache, said occupational hazards like sap, pitch and blades at his previous tree arborist job threatened his efforts. These days, his facial hair is an asset at his job as a Lincoln Elementary School teacher in Medford.

"It makes me automatically cool for some reason," Dunn said.

Ashland resident Patrick Bonney, a painter for the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, said his beard was "born" Feb. 8, 2008, when he was watching the band The Gourds perform. One band member said his beard was so long he could stick it in his belly button.

Inspired, Bonney gave up shaving that day.

His co-workers, sporting beards and mustaches from OSF's wig room, enjoy helping him celebrate his beard's birthday each February. They also started a Pappy's Beard Facebook fan page.

"He'll start first grade this year," Bonney said of his beard. "I'll probably go with him. We're pretty attached."

Bonney sometimes has to deal with paint spatters in his facial tresses, and he once lost part of his beard when it caught fire while he was playing with a candle.

"That was the disastrous 'Fire of 2010,'"‰" he said.

Waxing philosophic, beard-sporting Bear Heindel of Medford said society is embracing beards and mustaches once again.

"If you look at our forefathers, a man's beard was his pride. That was lost for a time," he said. "Now, people are looking at old pictures and styles. It's been missed. It's becoming new again."

For more information on Medford Beer Week activities, visit goo.gl/imehbg.

Reach staff reporter Vickie Aldous at 541-776-4486 or valdous@mailtribune.com. Follow her at www.twitter.com/VickieAldous.

Andrew Huston of Rogue River sports an English style 15 inch from end to end mustache. Mail Tribune / Bob Pennell - Bob Pennell