The "King Kalakaua Beard and Look-Alike Contest" is back for this year's Merrie Monarch Festival. The concept is simple -- anyone who thinks they have chops that compare to King David Kalakaua's iconic look -- competed today for bragging rights and the top prize. Dressed in the royal stylings of the late 1800s and with facial hair groomed to perfection -- one by one, candidates for the appeared before the judges on stage at the Hilo Bayfront bandstand.
"I was looking actually for the similarities between Kalakaua's beard and their beard," described Chris Agpon, one of the judges, before adding each contestant's outfit choice was also taken into consideration. "Kalakaua is very regal-- we have to make sure that costume is part of it, right?"
After decades on hiatus, the contest was brought back in honor of this year's Merrie Monarch milestone.
"Because it's the 50th Anniversary and actually at this time I'm gonna say because it was a lot of fun!" explained Toni Carvalho, an event coordinator. "I didn't expect 23 contestants, I prayed for 10 and he gave me the rest."
The Merrie Monarch Festival is dedicated annually to the memory of King David Kalakaua, who was known as the Merrie Monarch. He was a patron of the arts -- especially music and dance.
King Kalakaua famously said, "Hula is the heartbeat of the Hawaiian" and worked passionately to ensure hula was cherished, celebrated and passed down through generations.
"He actually was the one that wanted to keep the hula going and I think he did a wonderful job, and I think he instilled in Hawaiians really the thing that wanted them to keep music going and I think we still do that today," said Lei Branco, an event coordinator.
The first beard contest took place in 1964. The winner was David Kaula, Jr., a Parker Ranch cowboy from Waimea. He won $100 cash and his wife was also given a prize for putting up with his stubble while he grew out his beard.
Among the men competing today, 79 year old Adam Quinores -- who won three times in the 60's -- and brought his son along this time. He was met with applause and standing ovations when he won third place today.
"This was fun, just like old times," Quinores said..
Each of the contestants got a $50 gift certificate from HPM, but the winner -- Kupono McDaniel -- walked away with more than $600 in cash and prizes!
"It was wonderful to be able to participate in Merrie Monarch, especially on this 50th Anniversary," said McDaniel. "I'm usually just in the stands!"