Hemingway Days to Spotlight Author’s Key West Legacy and 125th Birthday

KEY WEST, Fla. — When Ernest Hemingway lived in Key West during the 1930s, he penned literary classics and fished for giant billfish in Florida Keys waters. Fans of adventurous living and writing can celebrate his legacy — and the 125th anniversary of his birth — Tuesday through Sunday, July 16-21, during the annual Hemingway Days festivities. 

Recalling the late author’s vigorous Key West lifestyle and world-renowned writing talent, the schedule is to include a look-alike contest for aspiring “Ernests,” the quirky “Running of the Bulls,” a presentation about 1930s Key West, a street fair on the island avenues Hemingway once walked and a three-day marlin tournament that salutes his passion for angling. 

Approximately 150 burly, bearded men are to compete in the annual Hemingway® Look-Alike Contest at Sloppy Joe’s Bar, 201 Duval St., a frequent Key West hangout for the legendary writer. Past contest winners judge the “Papa” Hemingway hopefuls during preliminary rounds set for 6:30 p.m. Thursday and Friday, July 18 and 19, and the finals at 6:30 p.m. Saturday, July 20. For entry information, visit keywestlookalikes.com. 

The look-alikes also star in Saturday’s “Running of the Bulls” spoof held on Greene Street next to Sloppy Joe’s and starting at noon. Sunday, to wrap up the celebration of the 125th anniversary of Hemingway’s July 21 birth, Sloppy Joe’s is to host the Papa Birthday Bash. The fun begins at 9 a.m. with opportunities to take photos with “Papa 2024” — and a themed birthday cake at noon.  

Key West in the 1930s was the setting for Hemingway’s “To Have and Have Not” as well as his home. Fans can learn about that era during a happy-hour presentation by Cori Convertito, Ph.D., curator and historian for the Key West Art & Historical Society. 

The festival schedule also features two “museum days” where visitors can view a rare Hemingway exhibition at the Key West Museum of Art & History, 281 Front St. Highlights include Ernest’s World War I ambulance driver’s uniform and 59 Guy Harvey sketches that illustrate his pivotal novel, “The Old Man and the Sea.” Visit kwahs.org.    

Anglers eager to battle the billfish Hemingway once pursued can compete for $50,000 in cash prizes in the July 17-20 Key West Marlin Tournament. Visit keywestmarlin.com for details and registration. 

Associated with Hemingway Days is the Lorian Hemingway Short Story Competition coordinated by Ernest’s author granddaughter. Visit shortstorycompetition.com.

Other notable festival events include a reading of Hemingway’s little-known poetry, 5k Sunset Run & Paddleboard Race, colorful Caribbean Street Fair on Key West’s Duval Street, and live auction benefiting the Hemingway Look-Alike Society’s scholarship program for Florida Keys students. 

Festival information: hemingwaydays.net 

Hopeful Hemingway Look-Alikes compete to be named the honorary Papa each year during the annual celebration of Hemingway in Key West. Photo: Andy Newman

Hopeful Hemingway Look-Alikes compete to be named the honorary Papa each year during the annual celebration of Hemingway in Key West. Photo: Andy Newman

Some candidates compete for years before they are selected. Photo: Andy Newman

Some candidates compete for years before they are selected. Photo: Andy Newman

The Look-Alikes star in Saturday's Running of the Bulls spoof held on Greene Street next to Sloppy Joe's. Photo: Andy Newman

The Look-Alikes star in Saturday's Running of the Bulls spoof held on Greene Street next to Sloppy Joe's. Photo: Andy Newman

Anglers ply the same waters that Hemingway did during his time living in Key West during the annual Key West Marlin Tournament.

Anglers ply the same waters that Hemingway did during his time living in Key West during the annual Key West Marlin Tournament.

This article was updated on June 5, 2024 at 6:33 PM
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