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Annual Hemingway Look-Alike Contest begins in Key West

A man shoves birthday cake into another man's face.
Andy Newman
Florida Keys News Bureau
Zach Taylor, the 2021 “Papa” Hemingway Look-Alike Contest winner, shoves birthday cake into the face of 2022 winner Jon Auvil Thursday, July 20, 2023, on the eve of Ernest Hemingway’s 124th birthday anniversary, at Sloppy Joe’s Bar in Key West, Fla. The birthday commemoration preceded the first round of the 2023 Hemingway Look-Alike Contest, a highlight of the island’s annual Hemingway Days festival.

KEY WEST, Fla. (AP) — Almost 140 bearded men who resemble Ernest Hemingway converged on Key West, the late author’s home during the 1930s, to compete in the Hemingway Look-Alike Contest that began Thursday evening.

The challenge is a highlight of the island’s Hemingway Days festival that salutes the literary talent and adventurous life of the Nobel Prize-winning writer.

During his Key West years, Hemingway penned classics including “For Whom the Bell Tolls” and “To Have and Have Not.”

The three-night look-alike competition is held at Sloppy Joe’s Bar, where Hemingway often spent time with local and literary friends.

Men judge contestants in a contest.
Andy Newman
Florida Keys News Bureau
Tom Grizzard, right, winner of the 2008 “Papa” Hemingway Look-Alike Contest, and other past winners judge contestants during the 2023 contest Thursday, July 20, 2023, at Sloppy Joe’s Bar in Key West. Almost 140 contestants are competing in the challenge, a featured event of Key West’s annual Hemingway Days festival that ends Sunday, July 23.

Closely observed by a judging panel of previous winners including 2022’s Jon Auvil, of Dade City, Florida, contestants take turns pontificating and parading across Sloppy Joe’s stage.

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.

The contest’s second preliminary round is set for Friday, the 124th anniversary of Hemingway’s July 21 birth, and the 2023 winner is set to be chosen Saturday night.

Hemingway Days continues through Sunday with events including a quirky “Running of the Bulls” spoof, a street fair and the Key West Marlin Tournament that recalls the author’s passion for Florida Keys fishing.

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