Mr. Healdsburg Pageant finalists set
Seven finalists have been selected for this year’s annual Mr. Healdsburg Pageant and include two local musicians, a winemaker, a chef, a restaurant server, a retired banker and the grandson of the first “honorary” Mr. Healdsburg Norman Smith.
This is the 10th year for the event which is the leading fundraiser each year for the Raven Performing Arts Theater, the 400-seat theater that plays host to a wide range of music, theater, movie and charity events. When the first Mr. Healdsburg event was staged, organizers appointed Norman Smith, a Navy veteran and steel salesman who was involved in local theater, to be the first Mr. Healdsburg. It was an honorary post and Smith was on hand to pass the torch to the winner of the first pageant, Clay Green. Smith passed away in 2010 but this year his grandson, Eric Smith, who was born and raised here and is a Healdsburg firefighter, decided to throw his hat in the ring.
“My mother encouraged me to do it,” says Smith, 21, who will be going by the moniker “Mr. Hot Stuff.” Each contestant is required to provide a nickname which will go on his sash during the event.
The other contestants are Brandon Hassur, 28, a musician and former lead guitarist and singer for Crazy Famous; Ronald Du Preez, 35, winemaker and general manager of Draxton-Du Preez; Daniel Gene Bishop, 30, chef at Ravenous; Paul Downey, 74, a retired banker; Chris Rovetti, 34, a musician and landscaper; and Mark McKenzie, a server at Ralph’s Bistro.
Downey is not only the oldest contestant this year but he’s also a one-time member of the legendary Yale University Whiffenpoofs. Only 14 senior Yale students are chosen each year to be members of the a cappella group, founded in 1909. Naturally, he lists his talent as “singer”.
Rovetti, who owns a landscaping business, fronts a local band called Rovetti and Meatballs in which he plays violin, mandolin, banjo and harmonica. He said a friend saw him perform, and “she said you should try out for Mr. Healdsburg. So I though why not?”
Du Preez was recruited by former Mr. Healdsburg winners Michael Bairdsmith and reigning Mr. Healdsburg Chris Herrod.
“The one who pushed me over the edge was Kevin Rogers,” said Du Preez. Rogers is a local winemaker (Nico Wines) “He really convinced me to do it.”
The South African native, who moved here 12 years ago, will be calling himself “Mr. Afrikaans” and plans on doing a South African Zulu dance, which he called his “secret talent.”
“You won’t believe it until you see it,” he says.
The event which will be held Feb. 23 at the Raven, is an all-male spoof of the classic beauty contest and is among the most popular local events each year. Contestants compete in a variety of categories including interview, beachwear, evening wear and talent. General Admission is $40 in advance and $45 at the door, though in recent years the show has sold out well before the performance. Runway Circle seats — 20 reserved seats near the stage — are already sold out.