MANCHESTER — A steady stream of Granite Staters, many of them abundantly-coiffed, watched their locks settle to the ground at the hand of a set of barber's clippers at the city's Celtic Festival Sunday.
They volunteered to have their heads shaved to show solidarity with children who lose their hair during cancer treatment and to raise money to fight the disease.
The fundraiser was for the benefit of the St. Baldrick's Foundation, which raises money for research into the causes of children's cancer.
"Children with cancer, when they undergo the treatment, they typically lose their hair, said Josh Auger, of the foundation's Manchester affiliate. "What we do is raise money through sponsorships and have our heads shaved here at the festival." An estimated $60,000 to $70,000 dollars has been raised from shavees in Manchester over the past several years, according to James Batchelder, an owner of the Wild Rover Pub, the downtown restaurant and lounge that sponsors the Celtic Fest and a companion road race.
St. Baldrick's has been affiliated with the Wild Rover Road Race for years and with the Celtic Festival since it began a couple of years ago.
"It's a charity we've coupled with to raise money for children's cancer over the years," Batchelder said. "You sign up and get people to sponsor you with different amounts of money to get your head shaved."
For Amy and Gretchen Finley, it is a family tradition, in honor of Amy's mother who suffered from breast cancer.
The Finleys participate with their children, Jonathan and Joshua Michelizza, every year.
"It's not my usual look, but it's my annual look around this time of year," said Jonathan Michelizza, a junior at Manchester High School Central. "I have done this for the past two years, I really enjoy helping with stuff like this."
Joshua Michelizza, a sixth grader at the Henry J. McLaughlin Middle School is a veteran of returning to school with a shaved head, but says teasing ends after he explains why.
"They're usually confused at first but then I tell them about it and they kind of get it," Joshua said.
The family tradition began with participation in road races that raised money for cancer.
"My mom is a breast cancer survivor, so for the last couple of years we have been running in support of her," Amy Finley said. "When this came up last year, we decided it was a good opportunity to give back to children with cancer."
The festival drew an estimated 2,000 people to downtown Manchester Sunday, including road race runners, many of whom could be seen padding around and about the downtown area in Irish kilts, provided as part of road race entry packages.
The head-shaving tradition began nationally at a single location in 2000 and now includes more than 1,300 hair-shaving events across the country.
Foundation officials said some $33 million was raised nationally last year from more than 49,000 volunteers.
Many participants, like the Finley-Michelizza family, have made participation an annual affair.
"It means a lot to me that our whole family will band together and donate to an awesome cause and raise awareness for children's cancer," Gretchen Finley said.