Time to clear your calendar, people. The second annual Arkansas Times/Root Cafe Beard Growing Contest is just around the corner. It’s scheduled for 12:45 p.m. on Saturday, March 1 at the Bernice Garden, after the conclusion of the SoMa Mardi Gras Parade

Go here to see the 20 jaw bush cultivators who showed up for our official “Shave-In” on Dec. 7, having their fresh-shorn cheeks photographed as proof of a fair start. Between now and judging on Saturday, these 20 will grow their face hair to maximum length and beauty for cash and prizes. Categories include Fullest Beard, Most Original Beard and Best ‘Burns and ‘Stache Combo.

Judges will be KATV movie critic Renee Shapiro, green thumb guru P. Allen Smith and photographer Arshia Khan.

For those whose commitment to their beards wouldn’t allow them to shave, there are also “lifetime achievement categories” — including Longest Beard, Best Santa Claus Beard, Best 35 and Under, and Best Aging Hipster Beard — that are open to entrants at the event. 

After the event, stick around for a SoMa Pop-Up party, where Nashville boogie heroes Woody Pines will perform for free. There’ll be a beer tent, too, and Southern Gourmasian and Waffle Wagon will be nearby if you get hungry. 

Below, organizer and Root co-owner Jack Sundell offers the lowdown on how the contest will work. Note: No nudity. No artificial product in “Fullest Beard” category. 

When you arrive you will be checked in at the Welcome Table where you’ll take a photograph holding your name like we did for the Shave-in. You’ll be asked to sign a copy of the contest rules, declare your category, and also put on a number to wear that the judges will use to identify you. Please be groomed, trimmed, and dressed for the judging when you arrive.

For the judging, shave-in contestants will be separated into 3 sequential groups: Most Original Beard, Best ‘Burns & ‘Stache Combo, and Fullest Beard. Judges will rate contestants in one category at a time, using whatever means necessary to establish the winner. This could include touching beards, using a measuring tape, asking for a side profile, etc. The judges have been encouraged to be thorough and independent and have been informed of the criteria by which to rate beards of each category (fullest beard will be judged objectively, whereas most original and ‘burns & ‘stache combo is subjective).

After judging the shave-in contestants, the judges will view contestants in the 4 Lifetime Achievement categories. They will then have a period for deliberation, discussion, and tallying. Their results will be handed to the emcee, who will announce the winners and honorable mentions in each category, as well as the Grand Prize Best in Show Award.

A few contest rules to note:
*You should do all trimming and beard preparation before arriving at the judging—this is to protect originality of “Most Original” entries and to prevent last minute category switching.
*The use of hair care or artificial product (mousse, gel, spray, etc.) is acceptable in the categories of “Most Original” and “Best ‘Burns & ‘Stache Combo.” “Fullest Beard” must be pure, unadulterated whiskers.
*The sideburns and mustache for “Best ‘Burns & ‘Stache Combo” do not have to connect. The only requirement is that you have the combination of sideburns and a mustache upon your face.
*In the category of fullest beard, only the beard itself is being judged. In categories of ‘Burns & ‘Stache” and “Most Original”, judges are authorized, if they deem it appropriate, to consider outfit/dress as it relates to the presentation of the beard.
*This event is free and open to the public; therefore, contestants should behave in a family-friendly manner—no nudity, excessive profanity, or derogatory language.
*Each category will have one Prize Winner and two Honorable Mentions. There will be one Grand Prize “Best in Show” Award Winner.
*The decisions of the judges are final, and by participating in the judging you are agreeing to accept their pronouncements with grace and decorum.