The event, which features opening ceremonies, live music, food from local vendors and a costume contest always culminates in a special highlight: the legend of the Hairy Man, communicated by storyteller Gwen King, who regales the crowd with the reason they are all gathered.
King tells the crowd that in the days in which wagons frequently traversed the Chisholm Trail, travelers were pestered by a man with overgrown hair. This harasser, the Hairy Man, was himself once a traveler on the trail, and as a young boy he was cast off his wagon and left to fend for himself in the woods.
Rebecca Tullos, director of the Brushy Creek Municipal Utility District, who plans and carries out the festival, said the story is often embellished and transformed by area residents.
“People say he was raised by wolves, and you can keep adding on for a long time,” she said.
In celebration of this man; the tradition he created; and the road that is named after him, Hairy Man Road, the community caps off every Hairy Man Festival with the Hairy Man Competition.
The competition involves on average 10 competitors, said Teresa Rose, Brushy Creek MUD community relations specialist. Individuals can register prior to the competition, but some join in the spur of the moment with encouragement from friends and family.
“Some sign up in advance, but there are definitely a few that are told they’ve got enough hair to compete and join on the spot,” Rose said.
Rose said each of the competitors varies in why they enter the competition—some have long hair reaching to the ground; some have immense quantities of body hair; and some have impressive beard stylings.
Elected officials from the state, city and MUD participate as judges.
Mike Petter, Brushy Creek MUD general manager, said in his 11 years of attending the festival, he has noticed that showmanship is well-rewarded by the crowd and judges.
“If you strut your stuff, and win over the crowd, you might just win it all,” Petter said.
The festival started 23 years ago as a way for builders in the area to get to know area residents at Cat Hollow Park. Tullos said the day has changed to focus more on charity over time, allowing nonprofits free booth space for activities and fundraising.
To enter the festival, attendees bring two cans of nonperishables or $2. Rose said the 2016 festival yielded over 2,000 pounds of food and $4,853 in food bank donations.
“My favorite part about [the festival] is how it shows our community coming together,” Rose said.