KEY WEST, Florida Keys — Each July visitors can spot the spirit of Ernest Hemingway, (or even scores of "spirits") on the island where the legendary author lived and wrote during the 1930s. That's because approximately 125 stocky, white-bearded aspiring "Ernests" converge on Key West in July to compete in Sloppy Joe's annual "Papa" Hemingway Look-Alike Contest.
Set for Thursday through Saturday, July 21-23, the contest takes place at Sloppy Joe's Bar, 201 Duval St., where Hemingway often enjoyed cocktails with cohorts. The event is a highlight of the annual Hemingway Days celebration of the literary legend's writing talent and colorful Key West lifestyle.
Look-alike contestants come from around the United States to vie for the title of "Papa." Most wear khaki safari garb or wool fishermen's sweaters that recall Ernest's signature attire.
Preliminary rounds are set for 6:30 p.m. Thursday and Friday, July 21 and 22, with the finals at 6:30 p.m. Saturday. The Hemingway hopefuls will be judged by previous contest winners including 2015's Charlie Boice of Palm Beach Gardens, Florida, who triumphed on his 15th attempt.
Before Thursday's preliminary round, the "Papas" are to celebrate the 117th anniversary of Ernest's July 21 birth and announce the recipients of the Hemingway Look-Alike Society's scholarships for Florida Keys students.
Other look-alike highlights include Sloppy Joe's "Running of the Bulls," inspired by the world-renowned event in Pamplona, Spain, but featuring man-made bulls. Preceded by a photo opportunity for "Papa-razzi" at noon, the extravaganza begins at 1 p.m. Saturday outside Sloppy Joe's.
Prior to the contest events, the bearded brethren will stage a "Meet and Greet" Wednesday at 5:30 p.m. at Sloppy Joe's. Contestants and fans are welcome to attend.
In addition, many "Papas" prove their strength in the annual Sloppy Joe's Arm-Wrestling Contest. Registration is set for 10 a.m. Sunday, July 24, with the contest following at 11 a.m.
Key West visitor information: fla-keys.com/keywest or 1-800-LAST-KEY
Charlie Boice beams after winning the 2015 "Papa" Hemingway Look-Alike Contest at Sloppy Joe's Bar. Boice finally won the contest after trying for 15 years. Images: Andy Newman
Contestant Jim Green implores the judges to select him as the 2015 "Papa" Hemingway Look-Alike Contest winner.