Florida Residents Hold 40th Annual Ernest Hemingway Look-Alike Contest

by Matthew Wilson

There may have been only one Ernest Hemingway. But that won’t stop Florida residents from trying to bring the great American author back in a big way. Elvis impersonators have been all the rage for years. But Key West also welcomes all Hemingway wannabes.

Florida recently kicked off its 40th annual Ernest Hemingway look-alike contest on Thursday. Forget Old Man and the Sea. This is Old Men and a Bar. Officials held the look-alike contest where else but one of the late author’s favorite bars. After taking a year off due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the Hemingway look-alike contest returned in a big way.

Around 70 contestants came Thursday night for their chance at being this year’s lookalike. Almost all had both a beard and a stocky frame to match the late, great author. But for many, it was for whom the bell tolls after the first preliminary round. The contest continued to narrow down the competition in a second preliminary round on Friday. Finally, officials will announce 2021’s Ernest Hemingway on Saturday evening at the Sloppy Joe’s Bar.

In addition to being one of America’s most celebrated writers and adventurers, the author was a key figure in the Key West community. Hemingway lived there during the 1930s, his house still a point of tourism. The author also often drew upon the location for his creative works.

Ernest Hemingway Days Festival

Ernest Hemingway passed away on July 2, 1961, saddening the literary community. In the years since his death, Key West continued to celebrate his legacy and life. Hemingway Days Festival kicked off on the author’s birthday – July 21st. The celebration has a number of events including the look-alike contest.

For the look-alike contest, past winners filled in as judges for the contest. Because who would know a better look-alike than a past winner? Among this year’s judges panel is the 2019 winner of the contest. Joe Maxey is a retired Tennessee banker who happens to have a striking resemblance to the late author.

Some of the other events include a Short Story Competition in Ernest Hemingway’s daughter Lorain’s honor. Over 780 writers entered the competition from across the country and even abroad. But writer Madison Bakalar of Somerville, Massachusetts took home the victory this year with her story “So This Is How We Go.”

Lorian founded the competition t keep her grandfather’s spirit alive through future generations of authors. The competition looks for stories that combine universal emotions and explores human nature. The festival will continue through Sunday. Other events include a spoof of “Running of the Bulls” with a Key West twist.

There’s also a Key West Marlin Tournament, inspired by Old Man and the Sea, and a literary walking tour as well. May the best Hemingway win.