The legend of the larger-than-life author Ernest Hemingway is forever linked to Florida’s Key West.
The writer and adventurer spent the summers of the 1930s there, and Hemingway himself is ‘For Whom the Bell Tolls’ during Key West’s annual, JUL ‘Hemingway Days,’ which returned in 2021 after a missing last year due to the pandemic.
Maybe the most unique celebration of the town’s ties to this famous author during Hemingway Days is a look-alike contest.
It’s a lot more ‘The Old Man and the Sea’ than a beauty contest with pretty girls in bikinis.
Around 140 men participated in the contest this year, some who have been participating for as many as 27 years. Most wear classic ‘sportsmens’ attire reminiscent of the author’s signature style. Beards and stocky frames are the order of the day.
2021’s winner was Zach Taylor. And lest you think that only literature buffs and scholarly types get into the spirit of Hemingway Days, Taylor is the owner of an electrical supply and plumbing company from Ambrose, Florida.
After his win, Taylor’s comments reflected the universal appeal of the author, nicknamed ‘Papa.’
“You know, everybody has read ‘The Old Man and the Sea’ and things like that, that he wrote, but coming down here, you start to see bits and pieces of a man you knew nothing about,” said Taylor. “I think Papa would be proud of what’s been accomplished in his name in a town he loved so well.”
Taylor likened the look-alike contest to a “family reunion,” particularly after the cancellation of the 2020 competition. His victory was especially meaningful since his late father-in-law Carlie Coley won in 2000.
Besides the look-alike contest, there are other events, including literary readings, an exhibit of rare Hemingway memorabilia, a street fair, and a spoof on the Running of the Bulls, the famed Pamplona event with look-alikes and manmade bulls parading down Key West’s Duval Street that Hemingway famously wrote about.
Finally, there’s a three-day marlin-fishing tournament in honour of the author’s love of fishing.