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Hemingway 'Maskalikes' Promote COVID-19 Safety For Key West Visitors

a group of hemingway lookalikes wearing masks in a screenshot from a video
Florida Keys Tourism Development Council
The video featuring Hemingway lookalikes is set to run on social media outlets in the Keys.

To spread the word about limiting the spread of coronavirus, the Florida Keys tourism agency is turning to some famous faces — one in particular: Ernest Hemingway.

Every year dozens of men in Key West compete to see who looks the most like Ernest Hemingway.

"As the Hemingway Lookalike Society, we look at Key West as being our adopted town. Help keep it safe," Dusty Rhodes, a longtime contestant, says in a new video. "Wear your masks. Socially distance. Wash your hands."

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The Nobel- and Pulitzer-winning writer lived in Key West in the 1930s and was later known as "Papa."

Six lookalikes got together to make the video that will be shown on social media outlets in the Keys. It's a message to tourists encouraging them to wear masks while they're on the island. A city ordinance requires masks to be worn anytime you're outside your home or hotel room, except while seated and eating or drinking.

The 2020 Lookalike contest was canceled because of COVID-19. This year's contest is scheduled for late July, though organizers say details may change.

Hemingway himself lived through the 1918 influenza pandemic that killed millions of people. He was in Italy when it broke out there, and his family was also affected, according to a podcast produced earlier this year by the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library, which holds Hemingway's papers.

Nancy Klingener was WLRN's Florida Keys reporter until July 2022.
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