Wishing to win by a whisker

The competition was hairy.

A record 210 competitors from 17 states and hundreds more onlookers showed their face at the fourth annual Southeastern Beard and Moustache Championships at Charleston’s Music Farm.

Among them was Seth Farrell of West Ashley, a first time entrant in the “partial beard freestyle” category.

Farrell’s follicle strategy involved shaving only his lower chin, letting his girlfriend use her curling iron on his bushy sideburns, and hearing her warn, “Tell me if I burn your face!”

Bradley Adams, Lt. Commander of the Holy City Beard and Moustache Society said Saturday’s event was expected to be one of the bushiest competitions in the nation this year, almost as big as September’s national championship in New Orleans.

Commander Paul Roof said the appeal lies in part with the notion of spending Memorial Day weekend in downtown Charleston during the start of Spoleto.

“Everybody just gravitates to it,” he said.

Adams, 33, also was competing in the under 1-foot-long category but doubted the five judges would pick him, even by a razor-thin margin.

“With only 5-6 inches long, this isn’t going to play,” he said of his beard. Adams noted he works for an insurance agency during the week, “so I keep mine pretty tame.”

Other competitors have not shaved since the 1970s. The unique category in Charleston’s competition was the “Salty Dog.” Competitors were supposed to have a “beard of the distinguished mature gentleman” and at least a shade of gray.

The competition is about more than just another pretty face. Adams said he hoped to raise about $6,000 for Lowcountry Women with Wings, a nonprofit that supports women with ovarian cancer.

Asked if there would be a James Beard prize awarded to the competitor whose facial hair contained the most appealing food particles, Adams said, “We should!”

Reach Robert Behre at 937-5771.