In keeping with an old English tradition, several Elginites took time away from eating festival food and looking at beautiful art Sunday to see who could make the ugliest face.
Billed as the North American Gurning Championship, the contest raised money for Friends of the Gail Borden Public Library in the middle of Elgin's weekend festival, Art and Soul on the Fox/Passeggiatta.
Started in rural England in the 12th century, gurning involves participants putting their heads through horse collars and making ugly faces, said contest announcer Steve Thoren.
"No one knew why, but it scared the children and it was a lot of fun," Thoren said.
Instead of a horse collar, contestants Sunday put their head and hands through the holes of a pillory and gave the audience their best faces. With the winner selected based on crowd support, 10-year-old Max Moring, of Elgin, walked away with the unusual claim to fame.
Moring said he learned to make funny faces by practicing in front of the mirror.
Gail Borden spokeswoman Denise Raleigh said the pillory has been on display for weeks. The medieval punishment device fits in with the library's summer reading theme, "A Midsummer Knight's Read," and gives patrons a chance for their own medieval photo-op.
"It lets our friends know we are a library that really wants people to come inside for reading and fun," Raleigh said.
Art and Soul on the Fox/Passeggiatta brought thousands of people Saturday and Sunday for the juried art show, theater performances, food, music and the Adirondack chair auction that ended Elgin's public art exhibit.