When the judges announced the winner of this year’s Fur Rendezvous Mr. Fur Face champion, Adam Bruck had to make sure he heard it correctly.

“Brown bear?” he asked the emcees as judges were relaying their results of a tiebreaker up to the stage. Then the crowd erupted as the coveted crown was placed on Bruck’s head, etching him into the record books as the 2017 Mr. Fur Face champion.

Bruck is an Anchorage resident originally from Maybee, Michigan. This was his fourth Mr. Fur Face competition and the first time he’s won the overall title. In the end, it came down to Bruck, who won Brown Bear, and Josh Black, who won Honey Bear.

Brown Bear winner and Mr. Fur Face Adam Bruck. Photo: Rick Rysso/KTVA 11

Black traveled from Virginia to compete in this year’s Mr. Fur Face. He became a national champion after winning best in show at Denver’s 2016 Great American Beard and Moustache Championship.

On Saturday night, Bruck and Black ended with identical scores, so the three judges had to decide a tiebreaker. Both Melissa Sanborn, a beard stylist who grew up here in town, and Miss Alaska 2016 Kendall Bautista each had different picks, so it left two-time Mr. Fur Face champion Doug Renfro with a tough decision.

“Adam said he competed with Josh four times out of state and hadn’t been able to beat him yet,” explained Renfro, who was asked to judge this year’s competition. “They both had amazing beards, so it really didn’t boil down to one beard being better than the other because it was a tie. So I went with Adam. I figured the hometown hero could win on home turf and finally beat his rival.”

“I was more surprised that Josh didn’t win it than anything else at the moment,” Bruck said to describe what was going through his mind when he found out he won.

Besides winning the 2016 nationals in Denver, Black took third at the 2015 world championships in Austria in the full beard with styled moustache category. The last time he competed with Bruck before Saturday was at the 2016 Whiskers of War in Virginia Beach. There, they competed in the natural beard over 12 inches category, with Black taking first and Bruck taking second. 

“He’s a good friend of mine,” Black said of Bruck. “I’ve been wanting to come here for years and he convinced me to come up. This is one of the oldest competitions in the U.S., so for me to come here it’s just as great an honor as the national championship.”

Renfro describes Bruck as a “defacto ambassador” for the South Central Alaska Beard and Moustache Club, pretty much the representing force behind Alaska bearding at out-of-state competitions. With bearding, no one in Alaska has competed more out of the state than Bruck — since his first event in 2014, he’s flown to eight different competitions in the Lower 48. 

“He does have a big passion for it, he does go out of state,” Renfro said. “He comes to our club meetings more so than anybody besides Jon [Smiley] and myself.”

The beard and mustache club lost a prominent member when Smiley moved down to Washington for a new job. Smiley, a two-time Mr. Fur Face, two-time Ptarmigan winner and three-time Brown Bear winner, actually flew down the next morning after this year’s competition, making it a point to compete before he left. Traditionally, the club’s presidency has been offered to the Mr. Fur Face champion, and members agreed Bruck was the perfect fit.

“I can’t think of a better man to take over Jon’s spot than Adam because … he puts it out more than anybody else ever,” Renfro said of Bruck’s effort.

“Adam is a very deserving champion and brings such a humble attitude and passion for representing beards nationwide,” said four-time Mr. Face champion David Traver, who, for the first time since 2000, wasn’t a judge or competitor, but was acting chairman of the competition instead.

Fans also saw Renfro with a relatively trimmed beard, as he plans to compete in Garibaldi at the 2017 World Beard and Moustache Championships in Austin, Texas.

“I did have a much longer beard last year and I just kind of got tired of it,” Renfro said. “I told my stylist, ‘make it look good, take off as much as you want, I don’t care. Just make it look good.’”

Renfro also alluded to the fact that the Austin competition might be his last.

“To be honest I think my next and final competition will be the world championships in Austin this fall,” he said. 

This year’s Mr. Fur Face saw two repeat category winners from 2016 with Roland Wierzbicki again in Polar Bear and Kenneth Felber continuing his dominance in Walrus. Last Year’s Mr. Fur Face Calvin Alvarez, who competed for the first time in 2016, won this year in Pole Cat.