Guitar player and singer-songwriter , a Healdsburg native, was Saturday night in a tight contest that featured everything from impromptu winemaking, to classic rock music, to breaking boards with bare hands, to a kitten rescue from a tree.
"The best thing about winning will be taking my boys out on parades," said Herrod, 46, the father of Carlo, 5, and Henry, 3, with his wife Briana. "They're just going to dig being out there with me like that."
Herrod said he was born in Healdsburg ("in the old Healdsburg Hospital on Johnson Street") and lived here all of his life except for eight years when he went away to college and "tried out" a few other towns before returning home to stay.
While Herrod's talent -- singing the classic rock hits "Hey Jude," "Love One Another Right Now," and "In the Sunshine of Your Love" in full '60s rocker garb -- was compelling, it was likely his repeated outpouring of affection for Healdsburg that put him on top in the complex multi-faceted voting system.
"I know what song describes me," Herrod ("Mr. Six String") said in response to a question he picked in the final round. "'Whole Lotta Love' -- that's because I love this town, I love my family, I love my friends -- I just love Healdsburg."
Competition at the sold-out event at was so tight that it was impossible to predict the winner, said producer Carol Noack.
"This is the closest scoring we've ever had," she said. "With every round, the frontrunner changed."
A parody of female beauty pageants, the Mr. Healdsburg competition is the top fundraiser for The Raven. Tickets were sold out by the middle of last week.
"I thought it was great," said Francie Brennan Forchini. "Everybody was awesome; everybody had so much talent and it was so much fun."
Seven men competed in talent, beachwear, formal wear and interview rounds, followed by the finals. In addition to Herrod, whose day job is selling woods to guitar makers, finalists were Healdsburg stylist and former professional dancer David Opperman ("Mr. Sexy and I Know It") and retired Healdsburg nursery owner Jerry Strong ("Mr. Heartbreaker").
Opperman's talent, delivered to the high-pitched screams of the audience, was a full-out dance/fitness performance with pushups, bumping and grinding and smashing boards with bare hands. Opperman was ushered in for his performance seated in a wheelchair and wearing a hooded black cape and mask.
Other contestants included Healdsburg firefighter Nick Bertalon ("Mr. Nick of Time"), painter Brad Brenner ("Mr. Picasso"), Realtor Poss Pragoff ("Mr. Wrinkly Realtor") and winemaker Scott Lindstrom Dake ("Mr. Thumbprint").
Brenner, sporting a "Bachelor Ben" haircut, surprised emcee Samantha Vega by asking her to accept a rose.
"I took a rose," Vega said. "Does that mean I have to sleep with him?"
Tanya Scott said she had three favorites.
"I liked the realty guy, and I liked the fireman and I liked Scott from ," Scott said.
"I loved that Nick Bertalon saved a little kitty in a tree," said Jennifer Waddington. "I just think he was cute."
Both Jennifer Crandall, a local dentist, and friend Jan Morgan said they were fans of Pragoff, who sang an original takeoff on "severely delinquent" letters sent out by banks and mortgage lenders.
Pragoff had the chorus painted on a sheet ("sheet music") and the audience sang along.
"He was great," said Crandall. "He got the sentiment involved."
But the star of the night was who ended the pageant with a no-holds-barred rap song, followed by an encore of his winning rap performance from 2011.
"Tej was really a kick-ass Mr. Healdsburg," Vega said in an understatement.
Sekhon, with the rest of the 2012 contestants as backup dancers, had the crowd on their feet.
Judges for the event were Donna Del Ray, Milly Glazier, Jo Anna Noble, Catalina Perez and Diane Wilson.
Scoring included a combination of votes from judges, along with votes represented by money from patrons. Audience votes could be made by smart phones using QR codes in the programs, with runners in the aisles, or in boxes set up in the theater lobby.
Sponsors of the event were and