I live in a pretty conservative area of the United States, and in the past two decades I can remember 2, that's right, TWO instances of seeing a JW with a beard in my area. (Not counting myself at times, 😜, and I'm obviously not counting bearded visitors dressed in casual clothes).
However at this year's convention, I saw about a DOZEN bearded JWs . . . This is like an explosion where I live. They were dressed in meeting clothes but more importantly, they had name tags, which means they are baptized and at least moderately active. Several were helping with dismantling the convention afterwards, one helping on the stage.
That being said I realize that none of them are likely Ministerial Servants, and per current policy do not qualify to appear on an assembly program. Still, it's worth noting the sudden influx of beards in an area like mine. Jehovah is certainly speeding up the ingathering 😜
I guess if they aren't being used for "privileges" anyway, then like the Ethiopian eunuch they ask themselves, 'What prevents me from growing a beard?'