In just a few short weeks, five brave men will take the stage at Freeland Hall in their quest to be crowned the next Mr. South Whidbey.
The annual crowd-pleasing male pageant is back, and the contestants are eager to raise money for Friends of Friends Medical Support Fund, which hosts the fundraiser every year. Founded in 1997 by the late Langley resident Lynn Willeford, the nonprofit organization covers the medical expenses of those in the community who need it most.
This year’s pageant is on Saturday, Oct. 7, where the contestant who receives the most votes will receive the title of Mr. South Whidbey 2023. People vote with their dollars, and each vote costs $1. Last year, there were over 26,000 votes and the entire fundraiser earned approximately $35,000, according to Kristi Price, the president of the organization’s board of directors.
The men competing come dressed in what says “Mr. South Whidbey” to them, and they present a special talent to the audience. Some choose to campaign before the big event.
Contestants this year are all working men employed at various South Whidbey businesses. You might recognize some of them.
When he’s not making coffee, working the register or serving customers, Joe Moreno, a manager at Flower House Cafe, performs under the stage name “Treestar.” The multi-instrumentalist and indie hip hop artist has a comedy and musical performance planned during his talent section of the night.
“I think I’m going to be the first one to bust a rhyme on stage,” he said. “It’s going to be interesting to see how it’s received.”
The 35-year-old knows from experience the importance of getting medical bills covered by the organization. In 2019, Friends of Friends donated $7,000 towards his surgery to remove a double inguinal hernia.
“I feel like I kind of owed them from before,” he said about deciding to participate in the pageant. “If I can give back, why not?”
Moreno has spent most of his life on Whidbey Island. He does screen printing for his band, and has made a special sweatshirt that anyone donating at least $200 to his Mr. South Whidbey campaign will receive.
“I think that the overall tone of my campaign is that we all have each other’s back and that we all deserve to have the care that we need,” he said. “If that means helping each other out, we should all put our best foot forward to do that.”
Billy McCabe, 64, is a metal fabricator-turned-baker at Seabiscuit Bakery who found himself “voluntold” to be a part of this year’s competition. He’s regularly attended the pageant during past years with wife Kathy, the former executive director of Good Cheer.
“Most of our dates are charity events,” he said with a laugh.
Known as “Baker Billy” by his friends and coworkers, McCabe has been selling desserts as part of his campaigning to raise money for Friends of Friends. He also walked around in an apron during the Whidbey Island Fair encouraging people to vote.
“At any moment, any one of us could need it,” he said of the medical support fund.
McCabe spent parts of his childhood living on South Whidbey. At the age of 17, he received his GED and joined the U.S. Coast Guard. Though he worked mostly metal fabrication jobs, he returned to baking later in life.
“I make a killer blackberry habanero sauce,” he said.
He stayed mum about his special talent, only to say that it might involve an auction.
At the age of 32, South Whidbey business owner Dr. Flynt Davies is this year’s most youthful contestant. The optometrist and owner of Bayview Vision Clinic is a relative newcomer to the island.
Davies is excited to participate in this year’s pageant and bring awareness to a good cause.
“It’s a community oriented organization run by community members, and I think that really speaks volumes to the individuals that call the South End home,” he said of Friends of Friends.
While some men may be nervous about getting up on stage and performing, Davies is looking forward to it. He professed to have a little bit of a theater background.
“It will be a spectacle,” he said about his secret talent – pun intended.
He advised people to get out and vote.
Freeland resident Steve Lamb, 66, has never seen a Mr. South Whidbey pageant before. This year will be his first, as a contestant.
The assistant store director of the Goose Community Grocer, Lamb is familiar with former winners and contestants of the annual pageant. He’s also witnessed firsthand the good that charitable organizations similar to Friends of Friends can do to help people in the community.
“My sentiment toward the organization and the Mr. South Whidbey process is I hope that the residents support all of us, and give generously to the organization,” he said.
During the big event, he plans to perform a skit on stage that has something to do with Saturday Night Live.
Randy Landon, a resident of Freeland, is also competing this year. For more than three decades, he’s called the island home. An artist and builder, he works at Bayview Garden. He built the stunning cedar woodwork that can be seen outside the store and the Flower House Cafe. Taking part in community activities that support a healthy community and provide support for health care expenses is very important to him.
Pageant tickets are $40 each. Doors open at 6:30 p.m., and the pageant begins at 7 p.m. on Oct. 7. Visit fofmedicalsupportfund.org/mr-south-whidbey to vote for contestants or to purchase tickets.