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Annual Irish festival begins with pageant, beard competition

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In order to take his first shot at the Donegal Beard Growing competition Friday night, Watertown native Alan L. Wood had to sacrifice the mustache he had worn for much of his adult life.

“When I had no mustache, I looked like my sister,” Mr. Wood joked.

His sacrifice paid off handsomely, as his new look let him take the title of King of Beards over 58 other competitors who had grown out their beards since Jan. 1. Mr. Wood, a longtime volunteer at the North Country Goes Green Irish Festival, said he had to enter the competition for its third year.

“It’s my lucky number,” he said. Coming in second was Matt Strader, while Chris Cooley came in third. In other categories, William W. Schontz won the under-18 award, Guy B. Forbes won the best-accessories award, Daniel J. Reff won most-colorful category and Matthew J. Kirkwood won most spirited.

The annual Irish festival, now in its 28th year, drew thousands to the Dulles State Office Building on Friday night. Money raised at the event goes to Project Children, which brings children from Northern Ireland to Jefferson County.

“It’s very heartwarming that people come out and spend their weekend here,” said Patti A. Shaughnessy, assistant chairwoman of the festival.

“It’s going to be a great turnout.”

In the night’s other main event, Jacilyn C. Devine, an 18-year-old student at Jefferson Community College, won the Miss Ireland pageant, beating about 20 other entrants.

Ms. Devine, a Watertown native, said she was inspired to enter the competition after spending time in Ireland last summer.

“I’m glad I was able to learn so much and bring it back here,” she said.

Taylor E. Burrows, 18, of Watertown, came in second.

The festival will continue today and Sunday.

The highlight of today’s events will be a performance by Irish musicians the Willoughby Brothers, which runs from 6:30 to 9 p.m. in the first-floor auditorium of the Dulles building. The festival’s parade will start at 1 p.m. Sunday on Washington Street.

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