By FloridaKeysNewsBureau Special to SouthFloridaReporter.com, July 24, 2015 – KEY WEST, Fla. — More than 125 stocky white-bearded men resembling Ernest Hemingway are in Key West to compete in the 35th annual “Papa” Hemingway Look-Alike Contest that began Thursday night.
Thursday’s competitors included Michael Groover of Savannah, Ga., husband of celebrity chef Paula Deen. Deen was in the audience, cheering Groover on when he was named a semi-finalist.
The competition is a highlight of the island’s annual Hemingway Days festival honoring the writing talent, sporting pursuits and colorful lifestyle of the author who lived in Key West during the 1930s.
Aspiring Ernests are vying for the prized title of “Papa” during the three-night competition at Sloppy Joe’s Bar, the famed Duval Street saloon that was a hangout for Hemingway and his cohorts.
Many entrants are repeat contenders and most dress in sportsman’s garb reminiscent of the author. They parade across Sloppy Joe’s stage before crowds of spectators, attempting to emulate the “Papa” persona adopted by Hemingway in his later years.
Contest judges are former winners including Wally Collins of Phoenix, Arizona, a white-bearded restaurateur who triumphed over rivals including his oldest son to take the 2014 title.
The competition’s second preliminary round is set for Friday and the 2015 “Papa” is to be chosen Saturday night.
Hemingway Days continues through Sunday with events including an offbeat “Running of the Bulls,” the Bacardi Oakheart Key West Marlin tournament and a short story competition directed by author and Hemingway granddaughter Lorian Hemingway.
Ernest Hemingway wrote some of his most enduring classics in Key West including “For Whom the Bell Tolls” and “To Have and Have Not.”