More than 125 stocky, bearded men are to gather on the island Ernest Hemingway called home to emulate the author’s appearance and larger-than-life character during Sloppy Joe’s 42nd annual Hemingway® Look-Alike Contest.
Spectators can cheer for their favorite competitors during nightly rounds Thursday through Saturday, July 20-22, at Sloppy Joe’s Bar. The 201 Duval St. saloon was a frequent hangout for Hemingway, who lived in Key West for nearly a decade in the 1930s.
The look-alike contest is a highlight of the island’s annual Hemingway Days celebration. Set for July 18-23, the festival salutes the writing talent, sporting pursuits and colorful lifestyle of the American author who was Key West’s most famous literary resident.
Look-alike hopefuls come from around the United States to enter the contest. They typically compete wearing safari gear or wool turtleneck sweaters, apparel identified with the author, and attempt to copy the “Papa” persona adopted by Hemingway in his later years.
Preliminary rounds are set for 6:30 p.m. Thursday and Friday, July 20 and 21, with the finals at 6:30 p.m. Saturday. The contest is judged by former winners including 2022’s Jon Auvil, who earned the title of “Papa” on his eighth attempt.
Look-alikes also take center stage at Sloppy Joe’s “Running of the Bulls,” a spoof of the renowned annual event in Pamplona, Spain. More like a parade than a fast-paced sporting challenge, the offbeat run features manmade bulls on wheels and begins at 1 p.m. Saturday outside Sloppy Joe’s. It is preceded by a photo opportunity for “Papa-razzi” at noon.
Other look-alike events include a Wednesday evening “meet and greet” where contestants and their fans can mingle with previous winners, a fun-filled dockside “fish-off” for aspiring “Ernests” and a commemoration of the 124th anniversary of Hemingway’s July 21 birth. In addition, the “Papas” are to announce the recipients of the Hemingway Look-Alike Society’s annual scholarships for Florida Keys students.
During his 1930s residence in Key West, Hemingway wrote “For Whom the Bell Tolls,” “The Snows of Kilimanjaro” and “To Have and Have Not” among other literary classics.
Key West visitor information: fla-keys.com/keywest or 1-800-LAST-KEY