Matt Walker was struck by how many fuzzy faces he saw in Juneau this past winter.
The Maryland transplant has been living in Juneau for about a year and a half. He works at Juneau Radio Center and said observing a steady stream of guests with facial follicles led him to consider starting what he’s tentatively calling Juneau Beard Club, which is poised to have its first meeting Tuesday.
“Over the winter it kind of hit me that it’d be something fun to do,” Walker said during an interview with the Capital City Weekly. “I got the itch to be involved in a beard club again.”
Walker, who sports a ZZ Top-esque beard that’s been present in one form or another since about 2002, was previously a member of a beard club in the Lower 48.
He asked around about already existing clubs, but found no leads. Google, Twitter and Facebook yielded no local responses either, so Walker is spearheading a Juneau club that will be wide open to any person over the age of 21 regardless of their facial hair status.
“Anybody can come,” Walker said. “One of my big things is community, forging community and hanging out with people. Any time you can bring people together with a common interest, it’s good.”
The club’s openness to potential members without beards from across the gender spectrum is also partially a reflection of the competitive facial hair scene. In the past, Walker has competed in the beards over 12 inches in length category.
In the past, he’s competed in Weird Out with Your Beard Out, Beards Without Borders, Bearding Man and Folkin’ Facial Hair Festival.
“There’s different categories as far as length of beard, color of beard, style of beard,” Walker said. “There’s even a female division called the Whiskerinas.”
That last division applies to women who create costume beards, he said.
He said he was unaware of any Southeast Alaska-specific contests, but was aware of one in Anchorage, which was also the site of the 2009 World Beard and Moustache Championships.
Walker said his hopes for the fledgling club are based on his experiences in past beard clubs that functioned as both social and service organizations.
“I hope it creates a community, where we can say we have some manpower and can help with some stuff, and we can have a core group that says, ‘Hey we want to raise some money for some passion projects,’” Walker said. “Even if it’s a few hundred dollars, it’s worth it. It’s got the community aspect where it’s social, but at the same time, it’s using that group to go forward and do things for the community as well.”
Right now, Walker is unsure who will show up or how many beard-lovers and beard-lover-lovers might be in attendance for the meeting 6 p.m. Tuesday, March 26 at the Red Dog Saloon. An event page on Facebook showed seven people as definitely going and 43 people interested as of Wednesday morning.
“It’s always tough in this town to get a full idea of who’s going to show up,” Walker said. “That’s what we’re trying to do right now is create that (a core group of members.) If it works, it works and if not, at least we tried.”
• Contact arts and culture reporter Ben Hohenstatt at (907)523-2243 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at @BenHohenstatt.