By COLIN M. STEWART
Tribune-Herald staff writer
The competition was wild and wooly Monday night under the roof of the Mo‘oheau Bandstand in Hilo.
Call it a face-off — or, more accurately, a face-on — of Hawaii’s best and bushiest beards, in the Merrie Monarch Festival King Kalakaua Beard & Look-Alike Contest.
At the end of the day, 22 challengers entered the competition, but only one could walk away with the best beard. As it happened, the man who bore the champion muttonchops may not be wearing his winning facial hair much longer.
“My wife doesn’t like it,” explained Hawaii Volcanoes National Park Ranger Kupono McDaniel, a resident of Hawaiian Paradise Park, whose curly collection of salt-and-pepper whiskers earned him glory. “I like it pretty well, but it’ll stay only as long as my wife will let it.”
McDaniel, who had never entered a beard contest before and usually only wears a goatee, opted to round out his look with a regal red jacket adorned with medals and baubles made from earrings. The jacket itself, he said, was likely a leftover from a performance of “The Nutcracker.” Black pants, shoes and a sash worn across the chest rounded out the ensemble.
He fended off a similarly dressed challenger from Oahu, Richard Kamakea Jr., who has been wearing his kingly chops for 37 years.
“My friends told me to come out here, and to bring the title home,” Kamakea said. “I want to bring that home to Honolulu.”
Alas, the stouter and more ornately dressed challenger walked away with second place.
The coveted third-place spot went to a man who’s no stranger to beard contests.
Adam Quinories, 79, a Korean War veteran, was the reigning champion entering the bandstand Monday, as the competition had not been held since he won it in 1968. For the second time in a row.
“It was good fun,” he said of his time in the competition as a younger man. “We drank like hell.”
Monday night, Quinories wore a plaid, barbershop-quartet vest with dark pants, a black bow-tie, and a black leather newsboy beret. He also came with a partner — his son, Quintin “Chunky” Quinories.
The younger Quinories said he was excited to be competing for the first time, but the evening was really all about his dad.
“If he takes it home, that would be better yet. I’m just here for the fun,” he said.
For their troubles, and itches, the winners each earned an ornately engraved koa wood plaque bearing King David Kalakaua’s likeness, a $50 gift card from HPM, and gift baskets filled with other surprises. The evening was co-sponsored by the Tribune-Herald. Experts from a number of area beauty salons and barbershops helped to judge the contestants.
The contest was one of the original features of the Merrie Monarch festivities, but was dropped when new Executive Director Dottie Thompson decided she wanted to focus the events of the festival on Hawaiian culture.
Email Colin M. Stewart at email@example.com.