The Fascinating History of the Annual Beard Competition in York County, South Carolina

The annual beard competition in York County, South Carolina has been a staple of the local culture for over two decades. Presented by chef and author Kwame Onwuachi in collaboration with FOOD & WINE by Dotdash Meredith and Salamander Collection by Sheila Johnson, this multi-day event pushes culinary boundaries and combines thought-provoking round tables, current cooking demonstrations, inspiring recreational activities and daily “family” meals where attendees and famous participants can interact. The event has been praised for its energetic and unique approach, with the German Elmar Weisser taking first place in the freestyle category with a hirsute interpretation of the host city's historic Brandenburg Gate. Beard contests have been around for centuries, but the modern competitive beard event began with a 1990 event organized by the First Höfener Beard Club in Northern Italy. Since then, these events have become increasingly popular around the world.

In York County, the annual beard competition is organized by the York Beard and Mustache Club - a group of local enthusiasts who spend their time touring breweries, drinking, and competing in facial hair removal competitions. In 2019, David Traver, a local favorite and member of the Beard Team USA, was crowned overall champion with his Alaskan snowshoe-inspired beard design. The York County NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness) has been involved in the annual beard competition since its inception. The organization seeks to improve the quality of life for all people affected by mental illness and provides support to participants while helping to raise awareness about mental health issues. The event also features some of the most renowned chefs in York County. Chef Clark is executive chef at Lure Fishbar and has been featured in the New York Times, Thrillist, Bon Appetit, Vice Media, Good Morning America and The Today Show.

Chef Shorne is another well-known chef who regularly participates in Food Network's annual food and wine festivals in New York and South Beach, at Citi's Taste of Tennis events around the world, and at the annual Rum & Rhythm Benefit gala. Chef Fowles is another prominent figure in the culinary world of York County. He graduated from the Chef Training Program at the Natural Gourmet Institute for Health and Culinary Arts in New York City and his contemporary approach to Caribbean cuisine has earned him numerous accolades, including a nomination for a James Beard Award. The annual beard competition in York County is an important part of local culture that brings together people from all walks of life to celebrate their creativity and passion for facial hair removal. With its unique approach to culinary events and its commitment to raising awareness about mental health issues, this event is sure to remain a staple of York County for years to come.

Denise Chafins
Denise Chafins

Wannabe zombie evangelist. Amateur music guru. Freelance coffee scholar. Friendly foodaholic. Evil tv fanatic.