A man who helped pitch Dos Equis beer as the Most Interesting Man in the World turned his attention from his favorite beer to his favorite beard by judging a competition called Vermont Beardies.
Actor Jonathan Goldsmith, who lives in Manchester and sports a closely cropped white beard that he maintains with a lice comb given to him by a veterinarian, was one of four judges who chose the contest's winner in Burlington on Saturday.
This year's honors went to Bryan Sturge, of Barre, who hasn't cut his beard in almost two years.
The event benefits Make-a-Wish Vermont, which helps grant wishes to children living with life-threatening conditions. Organizers said Saturday night that they'd raised nearly $30,000.
The competition was judged in three categories: urban beard, freestyle and backwoods. Each contestant also had to tell an interesting story about his beard. Out of the more than 100 original entrants, the top 30 were invited to the in-person finals.
Sturge entered the backwoods competition as a tribute to his 11-year-old daughter Zoey, who died of cancer in 2013 before her Make-a-Wish request to go to Disney World and swim with the dolphins could be granted.
When Zoey was sick, Sturge promised Zoey he wouldn't shave until she got better. After she died, he shaved a couple times but always regrew his beard. He said he entered the contest to give back to Make-a-Wish so that other children could be granted wishes that Zoey never got to experience.
Goldsmith, who spent nine years as the pitchman with the gravelly voice for Dos Equis, said there are a few things he's looking for in a winning beard.
"The character of the beard, how it brings forth something indigenous to the individual, something personal," Goldsmith said.
While the premise of the contest is humorous, the reason for it can be heart-wrenching.
"It's a promise that we made," Sturge said. "It's love. It's a memory. It's how she last saw me, with a beard. She didn't want me to shave it because of our promise. I offered to shave for her so she could see me without it. She said, 'No, that's not the deal.'"