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Aspiring 'Ernests' to Seek Look-Alike Title at Key West's Hemingway Days

KEY WEST, Florida Keys — More than 120 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 37th 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 fishermen's turtlenecks, 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 a congenial group of former winners including 2016's Dave Hemingway, who is not related to Ernest.

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 a parade than a fast-paced sporting challenge, the offbeat run features mock bulls and begins at 1 p.m. Saturday outside Sloppy Joe's. It is preceded by a photo opportunity for "Papa-razzi" at noon.

Also scheduled is a Wednesday evening "meet and greet" where contestants and their fans can mingle with former winners, and a "birthday party" onstage at Sloppy Joe's on the 118th anniversary of Hemingway's July 21 birth. In addition, the look-alikes are to announce the recipients of the Hemingway Look-Alike Society's annual scholarships for Florida Keys students.

Many aspiring "Ernests" attempt to prove their strength in Sloppy Joe's final festival event, an annual arm-wrestling championship. Registration and a bloody mary gathering are set for 10 a.m. Sunday, July 23, with the contest following at 11 a.m.

Event information: sloppyjoes.com.

Key West visitor information: fla-keys.com/keywest or 1-800-LAST-KEY
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Traditionally, the past winners of the contest share a welcome kiss to the incoming winner.

Traditionally, the past winners of the contest share a welcome kiss to the incoming winner.

Look-alike hopefuls come from around the United States to enter the contest.

Look-alike hopefuls come from around the United States to enter the contest.

Look-alikes also take center stage at Sloppy Joe's "Running of the Bulls," a spoof of the renowned annual event in Pamplona, Spain.

Look-alikes also take center stage at Sloppy Joe's "Running of the Bulls," a spoof of the renowned annual event in Pamplona, Spain.