Key West is throwing a party in celebration of literary legend Ernest Hemingway.
Hemingway Days will run Tuesday through Sunday, July 20 to 25. Fans of Pulitzer Prize-winning author Ernest Hemingway will converge on Key West to commemorate and salute his zest for life, sporting pursuits, literature legacy, and the island’s easy-going lifestyle.
Hemingway called Key West home for most of the 1930s, and composed novels, short stories, and poems in his Whitehead Street studio behind his house. He penned several classics, including For Whom the Bell Tolls, Death in The Afternoon, The Green Hills of Africa, and To Have and Have Not.
But writing wasn’t the only thing Hemingway enjoyed in Key West. He loved sailing his boat, Pilar, around the Keys while he fished for big game in local waters.
The Big Party
Fans from around the globe are usually in attendance for the Hemingway Days party.
The festival’s undisputed highlight is the “Hemingway Look-Alike Contest” at Sloppy Joe’s Bar, 201 Duval St., a frequent hangout for the author during his Key West days, and where the contest began 40 years ago. Dozens of husky, bearded men resembling Hemingway will take the stage to participate in the contest.
The event was canceled in 2020 due to coronavirus, but “Ernest” entrants are returning this year to parade their “Papa” personas before previous winners who will serve on the judging panel.
Recently, organizers announced that Thursday, July 22, and Friday, July 23, will be the preliminary rounds, with the finale set for Saturday, July 24. The events begin at 6:30 each evening.
Limited Entries This Year
Entries for each preliminary evening have been reduced to 35 contestants, 70 total, with 12 selected as finalists each evening to compete on Saturday.
Donna Edwards, the competition organizer, stated, “In [the] past we’ve had upwards of 85 contestants in our preliminary rounds, meaning 85 on Thursday, 85 on Friday. We are limiting the number of contestants at this time to make sure that we’re able to put on a great and safe show.”
At noon on Saturday, July 24, the look-alikes will stage “Photos with Papas” outside Sloppy Joe’s and then participate in the annual “Running of the Bulls.” Hemingway wrote about traveling to Spain to watch the running of the bulls in The Sun Also Rises. Key West’s event is a wacky, offbeat promenade that is a takeoff on Pamplona, Spain’s renowned run that features the bearded brethren promenading with fake bulls down Key West’s Duval Street. (No actual running takes place, and they don’t use live bulls.)
Final Round To Name Papa 2021
The final round will give each Hemmingway-costumed contestant an opportunity to take the stage and convince the judges why he should be named the winner.
A few changes for this year include the elimination of the Art Wrestling contest and crowd control. Sloppy Joe’s has the option to limit the number of people it admits to the various rounds. So if you are planning to attend, go early to secure a seat.
The festival is much more than the look-alike contest. On Wednesday, July 21, the 122nd anniversary of Hemingway’s birth, several literary events are scheduled. They include the announcement and reading of the winning entry in the Lorian Hemingway Short Story Competition coordinated by Hemingway’s author granddaughter. The announcement is paired with the reading of “Papa’s Poems” by the Key West Poetry Guild.
Other notable history and literary events include a virtual presentation by Ashley Oliphant, author of Hemingway and Bimini: The Birth of Sport Fishing at “The End of the World” and a twilight walking tour of Hemingway’s Key West led by Oliphant and artist/writer Beth Yarbrough.
There will be a “meet and greet” of the Papas on Wednesday, June 21, at Sloppy Joe’s Bar at 5 p.m.
The Hemingway Days schedule also features the Stock Island Marina Village Key West Marlin Tournament, a paddleboard race, a 5k Sunset Run/Walk, and a lively all-day street fair on famed Duval Street. All saluting Hemingway’s sporting lifestyle.
The celebration schedule is bookended by museum days on Tuesday and Sunday, July 20 and 25, at the Custom House Museum, 281 Front Street. The museum days will showcase a rare collection of Ernest’s documents, memorabilia, and personal artifacts. Museum admission is free to those who mention Hemingway Days.
Everyone is invited to the party. Most of the activities and celebrations are free and open to the public. However, the popular events may be too crowded and spill into the Key West streets.
Make your plans now to attend the biggest party of the year in Key West, Florida. Cheer for your favorite contestant in the Look-Alike Contest and enjoy the many other activities honoring the exuberant life of the legendary Ernest Hemingway.