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King of Beards crowned as Irish Festival begins (VIDEO)

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By JACOB PUCCI

Times staff writer

Christopher A. Dandrow’s fiancee usually doesn’t let him grow out his beard, but for the fourth annual Donegal Beard Growing Competition, she was glad he did.

The 23-year-old Watertown resident took home the King of Beards crown Friday night as the 29th year of the North Country Goes Green Irish Festival got under way at the Dulles State Office Building.

“It feels awesome to win,” said Mr. Dandrow, sporting a full brown beard with an appropriate tinge of red. “I didn’t expect it.”



@blurb-inset refer, editors not:The schedule of events for the festival can be found at http://wdt.me/Lz6dbS. A slideshow of portraits of all the contestants can be seen at: http://wdt.me/PdXffe. A video from the beard competition can be seen at http://wdt.me/irish-beards.



Mr. Dandrow made a few changes in his beard growing technique over the last year, when he did not place as a finalist. He trimmed his beard himself last year and got a one-week late start on the rest of the competitors, who are allowed to start growing their beards on Jan. 1.

But this time, after ringing in the new year with a clean shave at Sportsman’s Barbershop, he routinely got his beard professionally sculpted. Mr. Dandrow is a senior 3-D digital graphics major at the Rochester Institute of Technology, but even he likely would have had a tough time building as well-formed a beard as his that brought him victory over more than 40 other competitors.

“It was a blast,” he said. He said his secret was to rub a small amount of baby oil into the beard each day.

All the mustache-less beards were judged by Connie Johnson, owner of Sportsman’s Barbershop; Patti A. Shaughnessy, assistant chairwoman of the festival; and Brian Ashley, the bearded co-anchor of 7 News This Evening.

While Mr. Dandrow took home the most hardware, runners-up and winners of other categories got to share in the festivities as well. Third-place finisher Randal Corbett and second-place finisher Matt Strader each received a plaque for their distinguished facial hair.

In other awards, Brian Murphy took home the award for Best Accessorized, Michael Seymour and his tricolored beard took home the prize for most colorful, and Dan Reff won the inaugural peoples’ choice award. With a drink purchase from the impromptu bar, attendees were given ballots to vote on that award.

While that excitement was happening on the 11th floor of the Dulles building, the Miss Ireland Pageant was taking place in the first-floor auditorium.

Alexandria P. Smith, a Watertown resident and freshman art and design student at Alfred University, was named Miss Ireland.

“It was very surreal,” she said. “I was not expecting it.”

Miss Smith’s great-grandparents were from Ireland, and she said her great-aunt would tell her stories about Ireland as she was growing up. She admitted that she was a bit hesitant going into the pageant, but after some playful prodding from her mother, she decided to join the contest. After winning the top prize, she said she was glad she did.

The $1,500 scholarship she won will “definitely be a big help.”

Kathryn A. Beagle, a freshman early childhood education major at Jefferson Community College and a Watertown resident, said she was very happy to finish second to Miss Smith.

“I love Alex, so it’s great,” she said.

Miss Beagle took part in the 2012 pageant, but after skipping the pageant last year, she was back at it.

“It’s really nice to be here,” she said. “I love being Irish.”

In her case, her Irish heritage comes via her great-great-grandparents on her mother’s side of the family.

With the $1,000 scholarship she won, Miss Beagle said she will use it when she transfers to SUNY Potsdam to finish her undergraduate education.

Now, the pair will take part in the weekend’s festivities, including the Shamrock Run — which Miss Beagle said she will compete in — and the Irish Parade, scheduled for 1 p.m. Sunday on Washington Street.

Organizer Sean M. Hennessey, speaking on behalf of Co-Chairman Bill Archer, said Friday night had “record numbers,” calling it an “incredible start to an incredible event.”

Money raised during the event will benefit many local charities, including Wounded Warriors, Urban Mission, the Jefferson County Children’s Home and the Johnson School of Irish Dancing. Additionally, the proceeds will be used to fund numerous scholarships.

Who’s WHO
1st place: Christopher Dandrow 2nd place: Matt Strader 3rd place: Randal Corbett
1. Mark Kellogg 2. Ernest Huntley 3. Steve Marcinkowski 4. Tom Wojcikowski 5. Shane Lear 6. Mike Crump 7. Michael Seymour 8. Todd Hewey 9. Matt Kirkwood 10. Bill McClusky 11. Michael Robison 12. Len Flack 13. Brian Murphey 14. Don Gundersen 15. Don Gerber 16. Jason Sers 17. Jim Yonkovig 18. Mike Graveline 19. Al Flynn 20. Stephen Snider 21. Joe Bourgal 22. Dylan Heck 23. Matt Mehaffy 24. Sean Gorman 25. Clayton Tuck 26. Jeremy Wood 27. Chris Hillyer 28. Don DeWert 29. John Kane Jr. 30. Daniel Kane 31. Charlie Brenon 32. Dan Reff 33. WIlliam Serback 34. Greg Tucker 35. Patrick McGuire 36. Scott Hunt 37. Paul Corbett 38. Dan Connor 39. Alan Wood 40. Steve Hunt 41. Phillip Kane II
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