GARDINER — Bryce Royal hasn’t shaved in more than five years. Throughout the early afternoon, person after person walked up to Royal and asked for a picture, and he was happy to oblige.

Royal was one of more than a dozen entrants in the Annual Gardiner Beard and Mustache Competition during the city’s eighth Swine & Stein Oktoberfest.

“This is just a freestyle, and it took me a few hours this morning to get it the way I wanted,” said Royal, 38, of Windham. “It’s just a lot of fun.”

The event featured craft beers from a dozen Maine brewers under a big tent, as well as live music, children’s games, a petting zoo, food trucks, dancing and contests. Mayor Thom Harnett said it was great day with weather in the 70s, sun, great music, great food and great beer.

“It’s been a really difficult week, but you have to remember there is joy and happiness and most people are very good people,” he said.

Diana Twombly, one of the organizers from Gardiner Main Street, said there were about 100 volunteers and they were expecting 1,500 to 2,000 attendees. It’s consistent with the crowds the event has seen in the past few years.

“It’s a fun event to come hang out with family and friends, check out some other facial hair, and there’s lot of good beer,” Royal said. He spent a good portion of his first hour at the event talking with members of the Maine Facial Hair Club.

Zachary LeClair, of Lisbon Falls, said he’s been growing his beard for about four years. He said it was itchy at the beginning.

“You just have to get past the first year, because after that, it doesn’t itch anymore,” he said.

People come from all around Maine for the Oktoberfest celebration. Joan Sturn and her sister, Beth Wilson, made the drive from Portland while their husbands stayed home and watched their children. Sturn said it’s rare she gets to spend this kind of time with her sister, and they decided Oktoberfest in Gardiner was the perfect event.

“What more can you ask for, really?” she said. “Good beer, good food, good music, and good people.”

There was even a group that had driven down from Montreal. Those three couples — all in their 40s — pick a different Oktoberfest celebration to attend in New England and this year, they chose Gardiner.

Jean Levesque and his wife, Marie, said they were both looking forward to watching Leon Emery cut up half a pig, and they were also planning to try several Maine beers.

“We like coming to places in the U.S. and meeting people and experiencing their ways of living, even if it’s just for a short time,” Jean Levesque said. “It’s nice to see the crowd gathered having a good time with friends and family.”

The Levesques attended several Oktoberfest celebrations in Boston last year and wanted to try a smaller, more intimate gathering for their 2017 excursion. The sextet rented a Cadillac Escalade and left Montreal on Thursday morning for Waterbury, Vermont, where they toured the Ben & Jerry’s ice cream factory.

The group arrived in Portland on Thursday evening, are staying at one of the hotels in the Old Port and plannto have dinner Saturday night in Hallowell. They’ll return to Montreal on Sunday afternoon in time to watch the end of the Montreal Canadiens hockey game.

“There’s just something about guys in kilts, really long beards and the calendar saying ‘October’ that makes us smile,” Marie Levesque said. “It’s a fun time, and it’s like an unofficial kickoff of fall.

“Plus it means Christmas is right around the corner.”

Jason Pafundi — 621-5663

[email protected]

Twitter: @jasonpafundiKJ


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