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Fancy whiskers head to Alaska

THE world's fanciest whiskers are coming to Alaska so their owners can strut their manly stuff in a land that has long appreciated furry faces.

Today the 2009 World Beard and Moustache Championships will come to Anchorage, where more than 200 competitors from 12 countries will sport facial hair ranging from delicate Salvador Dali-style mustaches to bushy full beards.

Seasoned competitors say Germans have the facial hair to beat. "They take it very seriously. It is an age-old tradition there to have beards," said Bob Gengler, a 44-year-old Anchorage physical therapist with a big bushy beard.

The Germans' 20-person contigent this year will not include Elmar Weisser, who is renowned for his ingenuity in the freestyle full beard category. In 2005 in Berlin, he styled his beard into the shape of the Brandenburg Gate. Two years later in Brighton, England, his beard formed London's Tower Bridge.

Contestants compete in three main categories: mustaches, full beards and partial beards. The competition is divided into 18 categories.

Will Merrill, 45, a marine equipment salesman in Anchorage, will be competing in his first world championships.

"In Alaska, I think I probably have the biggest goatee right now," he said. "It is right about to my belly button."

Merrill said he has shampooed and conditioned his goatee every day in preparation for the competition, he said.

George Haskins, a 53-year-old clerk in Fairbanks, said children will sometimes stare at him and his mustache as if he were a cartoon character. Haskins placed second in the English mustache category two years ago in his first international competition at the world championships.

The grocery store where Haskins works doesn't allow mustaches that droop past the corner of the mouth.

But his mustache gets to stay because it "doesn't go past the corner of the mouth. It just goes about a foot to each side."


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