KEY WEST, Florida Keys — Fans of Ernest Hemingway’s literary greatness and vigorous life, including scores of bearded Hemingway look-alikes, are to converge on Key West Tuesday through Sunday, July 20-25, for Hemingway Days 2021. The annual celebration salutes the Nobel Prize–winning author’s writing achievements, sporting pursuits and enjoyment of the island’s easygoing lifestyle.
The festival’s undisputed highlight is the Hemingway® Look-Alike Contest at Sloppy Joe’s Bar, 201 Duval St., a frequent hangout for the writer during his 1930s residence in Key West.
While coronavirus forced the cancellation of the 2020 contest, “Ernest” entrants are to return this summer to parade their “Papa” personas before a judging panel of previous winners during Thursday and Friday’s preliminary rounds and the finale set for Saturday, July 24.
At noon Saturday, the look-alikes plan to stage “Photos with Papas” outside Sloppy Joe’s and then spearhead the annual “Running of the Bulls” — a wacky takeoff on Spain’s renowned run that features the bearded brethren promenading with fake bulls on Key West’s Duval Street.
The festival’s literary events include the announcement and reading of the winning entry in the Lorian Hemingway Short Story Competition coordinated by Ernest’s author granddaughter. The announcement is paired with the Key West Poetry Guild’s reading of “Papa’s Poems” and guild members’ work, set for the evening of Wednesday, July 21 — the 122nd anniversary of Ernest Hemingway’s birth.
Notable history and literary events also include a virtual presentation by Ashley Oliphant, author of “Hemingway and Bimini: The Birth of Sport Fishing at ‘The End of the World’” among other books, and a twilight walking tour of Hemingway’s Key West led by Oliphant and artist/writer Beth Yarbrough. In addition, two Hemingway “museum days” are scheduled at Key West’s Custom House Museum, 281 Front St., showcasing a rare collection of the author’s documents, memorabilia and personal belongings.
The Hemingway Days schedule also features the Stock Island Marina Village Key West Marlin Tournament and the 5k Sunset Run/Walk and Paddleboard Race, both saluting Hemingway’s sporting lifestyle, and a lively daylong street fair on famed Duval Street.
Ernest Hemingway lived in Key West from 1931 until late 1939, penning classics including “For Whom the Bell Tolls” and “To Have and Have Not” in a small writing studio behind his Whitehead Street home.
Event information: hemingwaydays.net
Joe Maxey, second from left, celebrates his victory at the 2019 Hemingway Look-Alike Contest at Sloppy Joe's Bar in Key West. Competing for the eighth time, Maxey beat 141 other contestants to claim top honors.