The Bearded & The Benevolent

Behold the Chico Beard Collective! For the past five years, men with bushy faces and women with great flaming beards in their hearts get together to raise money for under-funded high school music programs in Chico during the month of November. It’s called “Novembeard” and it is AWESOME. And this year’s celebrity judge is none other than one half of America’s favorite team of beardos on the Amazing Race, Brandon Squyres.

But hey, maybe you’re (Kathy) thinking, “Who cares! Beards are hairy and why is this a thing?” It’s important because everybody loves kids, music, and education. And Chico is fairly well-known for being a rich and diverse community of artists, musicians, performers, and makers. Luckily, many of our beard-growing citizens know that cultivating and nurturing that colorful creative environment starts with our kids. And in these budget-unfriendly times, The Chico Beard Collective is stepping up to the plate, cumulatively donating nearly $10,000 to The North Valley Community Foundation since the inception of this most excellent fundraiser. The NVCF divvies up the money and sends it to Chico High School and Pleasant Valley High School to spend on music and arts programs. My heart-beard is growing so fast right now.

In case you’re on the fence about joining in the fun, I asked some questions about how it all worked. The Chico Beard Collective sent over their Chief Facial Officer, Ann Fox, and Jeremy Votava to the Synthesis office to answer some questions and get everybody pumped up for a new month of growing godlike beards for charity.

What if you’re not really good at growing a beard? Like you’re a girl. Or a guy that doesn’t grow really fluffy facial hair. 

V: We don’t discriminate. We’ve actually had a couple of girls do it. They’ll never win best beard, but they could get a special award for bringing in the most money. One girl made her own beard and wore it a couple of years ago. We also give out The Wolfman Award, in honor of Cliff Claven, for guys that can’t grow a full beard in four weeks. And it’s a cool way for dudes to hang out with dudes and meet new people. The Monday checkpoints aren’t mandatory but they’re a good chance to hang out with your brothers and celebrate.

How do you raise money? 

It’s like running a marathon; you get pledges. Each participant is required to pledge at least $25. And the other part of this is that we do a silent auction and a raffle, and participants are required to garner one item for that. We made a lot of money on the raffle and the silent auction.

There’s also pretty impressive trophy involved—it’s not like a little soccer trophy, it’s more like a Miss America Pageant trophy. 

Ann: It is a pageant of beards.

V: Yeah, it’s like the Stanley Cup in a way, in that we drink out of it. But we wash it out each year. Who knows what kind of bodily fluids have been in it in the last year since Dain [Sandoval] has had it. And we add the names each year like the Stanley Cup too.

I heard the awesome news that Brandon Squyres is going to be one of the judges this year! Congratulations! Who are the other judges? 

V: This guy over here (points to Dain), and Ann. It’s always the reigning King, the Chief Facial Officer, and a “celebrity” judge. In the past we’ve had bearded brethren from around here fill that role.

Did you have a backup celebrity in case Brandon declined? What about Ann Schwab? 

V: She’d probably recuse herself because she has a vested interest in beards.

*roll the laugh track* 

What are the judging criteria? How does judging work? 

Ann: There are four categories: color, thickness, length, and one that varies—kind of a fun category. Then we rate each category 1-5 points and add them up.

What if there’s a tie? 

V: We would probably have a beard-off and have the audience decide? I don’t know; what do you think, Ann?

Ann: Maybe we can have a voting system this year? Something for a tie-breaker. We’ve never had a tie before actually.

You’re going into your fifth year! Who started this Novembeard thing and why? 

V: Jason Wooten and I were hanging out at Duffy’s talking about beards, and decided we should do a beard contest. We’d heard about that thing with the mustaches, where people grow mustaches for prostate cancer. We thought a beard competition would be great, but what’s the point unless there’s a charity involved? Well they [the man] were making all these cutbacks to arts and music programs and it hit the high school level here, and everywhere really, but we decided we’d channel the funds toward Chico & PV High School. We told North Valley Community Foundation, and they’re the ones that make us a legit operation—they are the non-profit that we give the money to. They divvy it up between the two high schools and the teachers who come forth and ask for stuff. And you know, the initial Magnificent Seven were all musicians or actors or carpenters; we just all related to the theatrical and the arts in some way.

And you have a party at the end! 

V: Yes, there actually is a party. It keeps getting better every year. We usually have a couple of musical acts. We had Shimmies & Hambones last year, and the lovely and talented Kelly Houston sang “There he is, Mr. Novembeard” to the winner. He wrote out his own lyrics to the Miss America song, it was beautiful.

I think it would be really cool if all the beardos came out like Miss America onstage at the beginning of the party and did some choreography. 

V: Would you like to be our official choreographer…beardeographer? They could have a beard dance, they could twerk, it’d be viral and so beardy.

Ann: They do have a runway, they do go down and do a little twirl and have their little parade and get their bios read. Maybe we could get a group of girls together wearing fake beards and they could do the opening act. [laughs]

When and where can everybody sign up? 

V: 6 o’clock at Woodstocks on Friday, November 1st. Then we do check-ins on Mondays. The first checkpoint is on November 11th at Duffy’s.

Check out the Chico Beard Collective’s Facebook page (www.facebook.com/chicobeardcollective) for rules and regulations, and enjoy the camaraderie of your do-gooding bearded brethren while growing out your “care” follicles!

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