For 14 years now, the Mr. South Whidbey Pageant has drawn contestants with big hearts and even bigger personalities to compete for the title — and yes, a crown.
It’s all for charity, so get ready for another round of this cherished island tradition. The event kicks off with an official “Meet the Candidates Night” at the Taproom at Bayview Corner on Thursday, Sep. 5, and everyone is invited to join the fun.
The actual pageant comes along a month later, on Oct. 5 at Freeland Hall, but this is your chance to learn about the candidates and get your votes rolling in. Each vote will cost you just $1, and the candidate with the most votes struts away with the crown.
All the money raised from the good-natured contest goes to South Whidbey’s own Friends of Friends Medical Support group, a nonprofit organization that raises and disperses funds to pay medical-related expenses for South End residents who cannot otherwise afford them.
The group serves as a community safety net for those residing in the Clinton, Freeland, Greenbank and Langley communities.
The field of brave men willing to hit the stage has been narrowed down to six contestants, all of whom will be taking the microphone at the Meet the Candidates forum next week.
Expect to hear from contestants Cliff Hagglund, Victor Ramos, Lucas Etzell, Brendan McHugh, Jimi Switzer and Fish-On-John Norris; they will let you know what motivated them to run and why they deserve your vote.
Hagglund, who happens to be both a hairdresser and a cowboy, had a major heart attack eight years ago and was out of work for an entire year. As a self-employed person with limited access to health insurance, he experienced firsthand what it was like to face unexpected and overwhelming medical bills.
“If I had known about Friends of Friends at the time, it would have made a big difference. And that’s why I’m running and why I wanted to be a part of this,” explained Hagglund, who has many friends who cannot afford health insurance premiums.
Contestant John Norris agrees.
“I’ve been a member of this community for more than 30 years and understand the need for medical assistance,” he said. “We have a lot of families impacted by medical costs, no matter what age the family member. Because of the excellent work, Friends of Friends does for our community, I am honored to have been nominated for Mr. South Whidbey.”
In its first 10 years, Friends of Friends helped about 1,000 people with just under $400,000 in medical expenses. Now in its 20th year, the nonprofit has distributed more than $1 million, all raised from within the South Whidbey community to help more than 2,000 neighbors with their medical bills.
The Mr. South Whidbey Meet the Candidate evening starts at 7 p.m. on Sept. 5, with the doors opening at 6:30. Tickets for the pageant event will available at the Taproom that night or online at the Friends of Friends website.