KEY WEST, Fla. — It helps to have a ruddy complexion, a beard, a stocky build or any other attribute that increases a resemblance to legendary author Ernest Hemingway. Thursday through Saturday, July 18-20, as many as 150 “Ernest” competitors and their fans are expected to converge on Key West for Sloppy Joe’s 39th annual Hemingway® Look-Alike Contest.
The look-alike challenge is a highlight of Key West’s July 16-21 Hemingway Days celebration, created to salute the writing talent and adventurous life of the literary master who lived and wrote in Key West throughout the 1930s. It takes place at Sloppy Joe’s Bar, 201 Duval St., where Hemingway enjoyed sharing cocktails and camaraderie with friends.
Entrants come from around the U.S. and other countries to vie for the look-alike title. Many are repeat contenders who bring their own cheering sections, and most attempt to copy the “Papa” persona and appearance adopted by Hemingway in his later years.
Preliminary rounds are set for 6:30 p.m. Thursday and Friday, July 18 and 19, with the finals at 6:30 p.m. Saturday. Previous contest winners, including 2018’s Michael Groover of Savannah, Georgia, are to judge the Hemingway hopefuls.
Other look-alike highlights include Sloppy Joe’s “Running of the Bulls,” inspired by the world-renowned event in Pamplona, Spain, but featuring man-made bulls. Preceded by a photo opportunity for “Papa-razzi” at noon, the extravaganza begins at 1 p.m. Saturday outside Sloppy Joe’s.
Following the Pamplona parody, the bearded brethren plan to host a “pre-birthday party,” complete with cake, to celebrate the 120th anniversary of Hemingway’s July 21 birth.
Also scheduled is a Wednesday evening welcome party for contestants and their fans, as well as the Hemingway Look-Alike Society’s annual scholarship presentations to Florida Keys students. Established in 2000, the scholarship program is supported by fundraising efforts by the “Papas” and their followers.
In addition to their resemblance to Hemingway, many look-alike entrants demonstrate their arm-wrestling prowess during the festival. Sloppy Joe’s Arm Wrestling Championship is set for Sunday, July 21, with registration at 10 a.m. and the contest beginning at 11 a.m.
Key West visitor information: fla-keys.com/keywest or 1-800-LAST-KEY
Michael Groover, kneeling, husband of celebrity chef Paula Deen, poses with past winners of the 2018 Hemingway Look-Alike Contest, after his ninth attempt.
Highlights include Sloppy Joe’s “Running of the Bulls,” inspired by the world-renowned event in Pamplona, Spain, but featuring man-made bulls.