Williams wins Mr. Berry, donates earnings to K9 charity

Noah Isherwood, Campus Carrier asst. arts & living editor

On Friday, the junior class hosted the 2020 Mr. Berry competition was held in the Bell Recital Hall at Ford Auditorium. Junior class president Bryce Nethery and vice president Rebecca Raines acted as emcees for Friday night’s event, with other SGA officers serving as ushers. The goal of the competition is not only to crown a new Mr. Berry, but to donate the funds raised from tickets to the charity of Mr. Berry’s choice. Like last year, the theme for the competition was ABC’s “The Bachelor.” 

Freshmen Matt Parks and Zack Fuller, sophomores Joe Miller and Brian Williams, and juniors Nathan Sims and Zack Kirschner kicked off the event by performing a choreographed group dance before the competition began in earnest. The first impressions section came next. This section gave each contestant a chance to introduce himself to the audience and judges in an interesting or unique way. 

Next came the talent portion of the contest, in which contestants showcased their special performance skills or talents, much to the amusement of the audience. Talents ranged from acting to singing and from comedic impressions to dramatically drinking a bottle of water. 

The formal wear portion of the competition was next, with contestants strutting their stuff in their best attire. Immediately after the formal wear section was the interview portion. Here, the contestants each picked a question from a cup and answered for the audience. The questions all dealt with life at Berry, in order to give the judges and audience a sense of what Berry means to each contestant. The contestants were also asked to explain their choice of the charity to which they would donate the ticket proceeds of the night should they win. 

After the interview portion concluded, the judges adjourned to the lobby to decide who would take home the crown. Deliberations having been concluded, Nethery and Raines took the stage once more to announce Mr. Berry 2020: sophomore Brian Williams. 

“Mr. Berry is a cool way for guys to come out and have a fun time and entertain people,” Williams said. “I don’t really see it as a contest against each other, I think we’re all there to entertain. That’s what we wanted to do going into it, regardless of winner or loser.” 

In the first impressions portion of the competition, Williams performed a comedic magic trick. The comedy lay in the fact that Williams cannot, in fact, do magic tricks. 

“I was trying to think of something to do, because I didn’t want to go up there and just talk,” Williams said. “I wanted something to do with my hands, and I thought it was funny that I didn’t know how to do magic at all.” 

In keeping with his comedic start, Williams’ talent was the performance of a comedic scene from the play Almost, Maine with his cousin, sophomore Joe Miller. The pair also performed a dramatic scene at last year’s competition, which Miller went on to win. The title of Mr. Berry has been kept in the family for two years now, but Williams said this may be the last Mr. Berry competition for the cousins. 

“I think this is the last time me and Joe will do it,” Williams said. 

As for his charity of choice, Williams chose one that is close to home for him. 

“I actually worked a lot with that charity in high school, so that’s how I’m familiar with them,” Williams said. 

The charity in question is K9s for Warriors, which operates in Ponte Vedra, Florida, close to Williams’ hometown of Jacksonville. K9s for Warriors runs a program in which U.S. servicemen and women dealing with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) or traumatic brain injuries are paired with a service dog. The veterans and their dogs go through a three-week training course at the organization’s headquarters, at no cost to the veteran. The course provides instruction for each veteran on how to utilize their service dog, and offers facilitation for the bonding necessary to ensure a productive relationship between the veterans and their dogs. 

“It’s a really unique way to combat different issues that veterans have coming home, like PTSD, and a lot of times they just need a friend, and ‘dog is man’s best friend,’ so I thought it was a really good fit,” Williams said. 

This charity is very important to Williams, who stresses the importance of supporting wounded veterans in ways that go beyond words, something that Williams thinks can go overlooked by many people. 

“I think any way you can help veterans you sort of have to, because most people are like ‘thank you for your service,’ and then that’s it,” Williams said. “You never stop to think ‘what else could I do,’ especially with stuff mentally.” 

This sort of thinking is exactly what junior class president Bryce Nethery said the Mr. Berry competition is all about. 

“I’d say the ultimate goal is to embody what Berry is: we all have fun together, and we’re all so passionate about Berry and our community,” Nethery said. “That’s the main purpose, to show that passion on campus and off.” 

According to Nethery, the competition is a unique way of showing this passion, different than other similar events on campus and distinct from a more traditional pageant format. 

“It’s a little different than Ms. Berry, in the sense that it’s taken seriously but people have a little more fun with it,” Nethery said. 

The competition has become quite popular, with more nominations coming in each year. 

“There were about seventy nominations, but that does include double nominations,” Nethery said. “It was a smaller number of nominees, but some were nominated multiple times.” 

Originally, 15 students responded positively and accepted their nominations, but that was whittled down to 6 by conflicts on the parts of the other 9. 

Nethery projects that the number of nominees will continue to grow, and when it does, further steps will need to be taken to vet contestants. 

“We’ve never had a problem of having more than fifteen people accept, but if it got to a scale of like sixty people saying yes, we would have to narrow it down to a point,” Nethery said. 

Williams may not be one of those boosting Nethery’s numbers next year, though he is still open to the possibility of a third appearance in the contest. 

“I don’t want to officially retire, but I think it’s time for someone else to win,” Williams said. “But I’ll leave that door open.” 

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