KEY WEST, Fla. — Just call him “Papa.”
White-bearded Gerrit Marshall from Madison, Wisconsin, has won the 2023 Hemingway Look-Alike Contest, a highlight of Key West’s annual Hemingway Days festival that ends Sunday.
The retired television broadcast engineer triumphed over nearly 140 other entrants to win the contest’s final round Saturday — on his 68th birthday, and just a day after the 124th anniversary of Ernest Hemingway’s July 21 birth.
“This is the best birthday that I have ever had,” said Marshall following his victory at Sloppy Joe’s Bar, where Hemingway often gathered with friends while living in Key West during the 1930s.
Preliminary rounds took place Thursday and Friday, with most look-alike entrants emulating the rugged “Papa” persona that Hemingway adopted in his later years.
Saturday night at Sloppy Joe’s, spectators cheered and waved signs wildly when their favorite “aspiring Ernests” paraded onstage to be judged by a panel of past contest winners. Some contestants tried to impress the judges with their musical skills by singing and playing the harmonica as well.
Marshall, who won on his 11th attempt, said he shared an interest in writing and outdoor pursuits with Hemingway but doesn’t envy the late author’s four marriages.
“Like Hemingway, I have a love of the outdoors; I love fishing one heck of a lot,” he said. “I only have one wife, but that doesn’t matter — that’s all I need.”
The annual Hemingway Days festivities salute the adventurous lifestyle and literary talent of the Nobel Prize–winning author, who spent nearly a decade living and writing in Key West.
“It is exhilarating to know that Hemingway was here, and to walk in his footsteps,” said Marshall. “I think if he was here today, he would be totally amazed.”
During his Key West years, the author wrote many of his most famous works including “To Have and Have Not,” “The Snows of Kilimanjaro” and “For Whom the Bell Tolls.”