KEY WEST, Fla. — Celebrity chef Paula Deen’s white-bearded husband has won an Ernest Hemingway look-alike competition, a highlight event of Key West’s annual Hemingway Days festival that ends Sunday.
Michael Groover from Savannah, Georgia, triumphed over 150 other entrants on his ninth attempt during Saturday night’s Hemingway Look-Alike Contest final round at Sloppy Joe’s Bar, a frequent hangout of the author during his Key West years.
Groover credited the win on his ninth attempt in part to persistence.
“I think everybody here really has to pay their dues and I did,” he said as he accepted congratulations from Deen and previous contest winners after his victory.
Hemingway Days salutes the American literary giant and avid sportsman who lived and wrote in Key West during the 1930s. Look-alike hopefuls from as far away as Australia and Norway competed in the three-night competition.
“I feel a kinship, because I love fishing and hunting,” said Groover, adding that he too has written a book.
“It was ‘My Delicious Life With Paula Deen.’ It didn’t sell like Ernest’s books,” he admitted.
Deen was delighted with her husband’s victory.
“I saw that he was so passionate about it and he wanted to do this; he wanted to participate,” said Deen, who was among the crowd of cheering spectators as the Hemingway hopefuls paraded onstage before a judging panel of former winners.
Finalists included Matthew Collins of Phoenix, Arizona, portraying a dark-haired young Hemingway without the characteristic beard of his later years.
During his Key West residence, Ernest Hemingway wrote classics including “For Whom the Bell Tolls,” “Death in the Afternoon” and “To Have and Have Not.”
Other festival events included an offbeat “Running of the Bulls,” literary readings, the three-day Havana Club Key West Marlin Tournament and a historic tour of Hemingway sites in Key West.