The Iowa State Fair being right around the corner means one thing. It means that Don Larkin is reaching into his bottomless bag of tricks. The three time defending champion in the Unique Beard category is primed and ready for this year's competition. "I got together with the team last night Troy, and we did a practice run," he told me over a lunch time telephone call today. "The person who wins this year is going to have to work extremely hard to take home the prize. Let me just say that I have been working extremely hard!"
Last week Don sat down with Pete Hussman, the editor of the Newton Independent. With Pete's permission, I am sharing the interview that took place.
|Don has tricks up his sleeve.|
Don Larkin of Newton has been wowing Iowa State Fair audiences at the Most Unique Beard Contest since bursting on the scene in his "Corn on a Hick" shtick getup three years ago and has continued his reign as champion with his Butter Beard tribute to the 100th anniversary of the fair's legendary Butter Cow and last year's triple-decker ice cream cone beard.
Larkin is planning to defend his title at next month's State Fair contest so the Newton Independent sat down to talk with the king of creative beard displays to gain some insight as to what drives this growing State Fair legend.
N.I.: What got you interested in participating in the Unique Beard Contest in the first place?
Larkin: Well, back as a boy from the south side of Ottumwa, my family would camp at the State Fair each summer. Having free roam of the grounds - and having more free time than money - I started attending the free shows. That's when I ran across the Beard Contest. As an adult I continued to go to the Fair each year and I always wanted to win a Blue Ribbon. I knew that animal husbandry or baking were out, but I knew hair, especially beards - they're the thing now you know. I finally decided to throw caution to the wind and entered the contest and here we are today.
N.I.: You've come up with some pretty original designs. Where do you get your ideas?
Larkin: I have got to give all the credit to Lori McNew and all her staff at the e-Clips salon here in Newton. Without Lori and her staff, I couldn't have accomplished all that's been done in the past three years. She's given me the backing to be able to take the competitive beard design profession to a whole new level. Nothing compares with what we've been able to accomplish in such a short amount of time. It's exciting to see the team come together as we prepare to defend out title.
N.I.: So what do you do to your beard throughout the year to ready it for competition?
Larkin: A lot of people don't know this but beards need two things - air and rest. You've got to allow the beard to breath throughout the year to gain its full composure. And rest is very important, too. Oh, and don't shave.
N.I.: So where do you see competitive beard design moving in the future?
Larkin: It's growing. It's getting bigger and bigger. I can't tell you all the details but I have been approached by producers of a possible new cable TV show modeled after Iron Chef. The plan would be to pit unique beard champions like myself against a series of challengers in timed competitions where teams would be required to assemble a design based on a theme and using items that the competitors wouldn't know beforehand. You know, like Gilligan's Island where you'd have to incorporate coconuts into your beard along with the Skipper's cap. I think it's going to come together. I'm excited.
N.I.: So what's your greatest moment as a State Fair Beard Champion?
Larkin: I've been amazed at the number of people who have stopped me to take a photo with them. That is very gratifying to be recognized as a beard champion. But I'd have to say spending my $5 winnings at the Bud tent has been the best.
N.I.: So, are you dropping any hints what might be in store for this year's beard design?
Larkin: That, my friend, is a well-guarded secret. I won't even tell myself. But I will tell you one thing. I'm not going over there to lose!
The Iowa State Fair Beard Contest is slated for 10:30 a.m. Tuesday, Aug. 13, at Pioneer Hall.