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04.06.2024: Wolek's 71st Anniversary Beard Championship @ The Polish Home

If it can be done, people will compete to be the best at it. Were you at Dom Polski (aka the Syracuse Polish Home) on Park Avenue last weekend, you'd have seen people from all over competing for best beard at Wolek's 71st Anniversary Beard Competition, benefiting the Polish Home. The Polish Home is a non-profit private club that has been a Syracuse landmark for over 100 years. The Beard competition is being held to help fund the club's restoration of their vintage Brunswick bowling lanes.

The Polish Home on Park...

...and the bowling alley to be restored.

Founded by father and son Ron and Ron Wolek, the competition honors a tradition started by the elder Ron's father and accomplished Syracuse athlete Hank Wolek at the bar he owned. During lent, men who frequented the bar would join the mustache club, and give up shaving for lent. At the end of lent, their mustaches would be judged, prizes awarded, and the dues from the mustache club would be used to put on a clam bake. This clam bake remains a part of the beard competition tradition and is the celebration following the award of prizes.

Competitors John and Anne Ruggerie

Beards were bountiful in a broad variety of lengths and styles. There was even a whiskerina competition for women in false beards. Contestants came from all over to compete. The furthest distance traveled that I spoke with was "Rhode Island" Ron Szymanski, who hailed from Rhode Island and who has competed around the nation, even traveling to points as far away as Key West to pit his bountiful beard against the best . Contestants mixed and mingled in the bar while waiting to be judged, sipping on Żywiec beer from Poland, and talking shop, such as different ways to style beards or methods braid and tie them up so as to get a beard up an

d out to the way when a less full bodied look was desired.

Rhode Island Ron Szymanski styling his beard

When summoned to the stage, each competitor would have their beard measured, and be interviewed by a panel of judges.

Questions ranged from the how: how do they care for the beard, what products they used, etc. to the why: why did you grow the beard, why do you compete, and why do you prefer this style over others? Prizes for the winners included Crunch tickets, gift certificates for cigars, and trophies.

Getting measured up.


In the end, the competition raised $500 for the Polish Home, and Travis Castleman of Kirkville, NY took home the Hank Wolek Memorial cup.

Presenting the Hank Wolek Memorial Cup to Travis Castleman of Kirkville, NY

The full list of results is as follows:

Hank Wolek Memorial Cup Winner: 

Travis Castleman; Kirkville, NY

2024 Beard Champion: 

Travs Casheuwn; Kirkville, NY

Matthew Leuthold, Rome, NY

Eric Dean, Sodus, NY


First: Travs Casheuwn; Kirkville, NY

Second: Matthew Leuthold, Rome, NY

Third: Eric Dean, Sodus, NY

Fourth: Jacob Taberg, Blossvale, NY

Fith: John Licitra, Mexico, NY

Sixth: Johnny Ruggeri, Brewerton, NY

Seventh: Jacob, Blossvale, NY


Mike Phillips, Camillus, NY


Anne Ruggerie, Brewerton, NY


Rob Synakowshi, Syracuse, NY


Ron Szymanski, Woonsocket, RI

More Pictures from the 71st Anniversary Wolek Beard Championship:

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