By PETER SUR
Tribune-Herald staff writer
Any contestant hoping to win a share of the Merrie Monarch Festival’s King Kalakaua beard look-a-like competition will have to get past Adam and Chunky Quinories.
Adam, a 79-year-old Korean War veteran, is a two-time champion of the beard contest in the late 1960s.
His son Chunky, a 49-year-old Iraq War veteran, has only grown a beard once before, but it was when he served as mo‘i kane, or king, of the festival in 2004.
One of the original features of the early years of the Merrie Monarch Festival, the beard contest was a quirky way to pay homage to Hawaii’s famous king and his equally famous set of muttonchops.
The contest was abandoned in 1969, when new Executive Director Dottie Thompson moved the festival away from its beer-drenched roots in favor of a focus on Hawaiian culture. But this year the contest is back, and with a significant treasure at stake for whomever claims the best beard.
Adam Quinories, who lives in Glenwood with wife Junedale, was approached by his friend, Merrie Monarch Festival co-founder Gene Wilhelm, to enter the contest in 1967.
He won, defeating three-time champion David Kaula of Waimea, who had ruled supreme since the inaugural contest in 1964.
Quinories repeated the feat in 1968, and wife Junedale pulled at his side-whiskers in a front-page photo published that year. Because Thompson canceled the contest after that, Quinories is the defending champion. His memories of those days are a little hazy, but he had a lot of fun.
“I really drank a lot,” Adam Quinories said.
“He would never have gotten up on that stage” without a drink or two, his wife added.
Those were the days when Quinories’ beard was thick and black. Today it has much more salt than pepper.
There’s no secret to growing a Kalakaua-style beard, he said; Just grow it long and trim it to look like a king.
“I always wanted the old style to come back,” said Quintin Kahinano “Chunky” Quinories, who is himself nursing a nearly inch-long beard that’s almost as white as his father’s. He hasn’t shaved since Halloween. “I like the old style, the old ways,” he said.
The early years of the festival were “small-kid time” for Quinories, 47, but he still remembers the fun of those days. He’d like to bring that back, along with the dignity appropriate for a festival honoring the king.
“The men dressed up; the women dressed up,” he said. “Now they come with shorts, slippers and tank tops. Before, it was an outing,” Quinories said. “Now they go like how they come from the beach.”
Basically Books co-owner David Reed is another entrant, but he’s taking a different approach. Instead of growing a beard and then trimming it later, he’s sporting an increasingly weighty set of sideburns.
“It’s a little gray,” he said. “I’m going to go au naturale (without coloring). So I’m doing the older Kalakaua.”
Like the younger Quinories, Reed has had experience as the bearded king of a Hilo festival — Mardi Gras, about 10 years ago. A portrait of him hangs on the wall in the back of his book store.
“I’m hoping a lot of people enter. It would be fun. I’ve been spreading the word,” he said. He’s been growing it since Thanksgiving.
“I’m working on the muttonchops look now so that when I talk to someone about it, you can see the shape,” Reed said.
The people in charge of the beard contest say there’s much interest in the beard contest. Prizes have not yet been determined, but it will probably involve a “pretty significant” award.
Wilhelm, then an executive assistant to county Chairman Helene Hale and a cofounder of the Merrie Monarch Festival, came up with the idea of a beard contest.
Wilhelm himself entered the inaugural contest, but he did not get into the final round. Now living on Maui, Wilhelm is the grand marshal of this year’s Royal Parade.
Other finalists in 1964 were Eduard Noble, Joe Papalimu, Patrick McGreevy, Vern Gibson Jr., J.J. Medeiros, Steve Thorson, Fritz Forbes, James Allen Jr. and Moses Henderson Jr.
A panel of judges comprised of hairdressers and barbers is still being compiled, said Toni Carvalho, a hairdresser who is in charge of reviving the contest this year.
“The criteria, it’s going to be mostly the beard, and we’re telling them to dress either in Hawaiian attire” or something appropriate for the era, Carvalho said. Coloring of the hair and beard is permitted, she said.
Contestants will be given a photo of the king to model their facial hair.
“It’s not a full beard. It’s more like heavy-duty sideburns and a moustache,” Carvalho said.
Plans call for the judging to be at 5 p.m. Monday, April 1, at Mo‘oheau Park.
HPM Building Supply is offering $50 gift certificates to the first 50 registered contestants who participate in the final judging (see details and entry rules on the website).
Information about the beard contest also is available at the Merrie Monarch office, located at 865 Piilani St. in Hilo. Phone: 935-9168.