Two coulee region men grow award winning beards

Many men grow out their beards for the month of November. But some in the area are taking beard growing to the next level.

Viroqua is the only place you can get custom-made mugs by Jason Kiley.

“I make cups, mugs, bowls. Anything that someone would want off the wheel.”

But spinning the clay can be dangerous for him.

“The last thing I want is my beard to get hooked to the wheel, and me to get pulled down in a face full of clay.”

Jason has to keep his 24-inch beard in check before he can go about his day, and he keeps his beard care supplies in his pantry, because his bathroom mirror is just too small.

Once it’s brushed. It’s braided.

“I’ve definitely gotten quicker at it.”

But Jason’s beard isn’t always this well-kept.

“I went from just the new big beard guy in town to ‘oh that guy’s the world champion.’

Jason won the World Championships for his freestyle beard two years ago. He says he transfers the creativity from his pottery to his facial hair.

“I really wanted to get ridiculously good, and something completely ridiculous.”

What’s even more ridiculous is that Jason isn’t the only beastly beard in the area.

Andrew Mattson lives in Sparta, and won the national prize for best goatee this last month.

“I had horrible sideburns. So as soon as I got in the community they were like ‘you need to shave those off, you’re a goatee guy.”

Like Jason, Andrew’s beard does produce some workplace hazards.

“Being in the food industry, I have to wear a beard net at all times. The beard nets that they have don’t work with having a fourteen-inch goatee.”

Not to mention, everyday hazards.

“If you eat soup or ice cream or anything messy, it’s going to get everywhere and people are going to stare at you more,” said Mattson.

To help counter this, Jason put his pottery skills to work.

“I started putting mustache guards in my coffee cup, which is a complete game changer.”

“I’ve been fortunate to not get it caught in power tools, but there’s people that have,” said Mattson.

I have,” replaied Kiley.

Both men have made friends for a lifetime through competing.

“You keep in contact with the community like you do your family,” said Kiley.

“It’s a family reunion every couple of weekends I go,” added Mattson.

Through competing, these two strangers became friends.

“I’ve always rooted for Jason no matter where he goes.”

And they’ve made friends with competitors across the country.

“I just find couches or spare bedrooms to sleep in rather than sleeping in hotels just by reaching out to someone I met once.”

Because no matter where you are, these men have learned there’s nothing thicker than the brotherhood of beards.

“It was an instant comradery I hadn’t even felt before in any group.”

Get your weather forecast from people that actually live in your community. We update with short, easy-to-use video forecasts you can watch on your phone every day. Download the iOS or Android app here.