Fans of Ernest Hemingway's literary greatness and zest for life can start polishing their prose and practicing their Papa personas for the 34th annual Hemingway Days, set for July 15 through 20 in Key West.
The Nobel Prize-winning author lived in the Southernmost City from 1931 until late 1939, penning classics including "For Whom the Bell Tolls" and "To Have and Have Not," fishing for deep-sea prey and relaxing with local and literary cohorts. The festival celebrates his writing achievements, sporting pursuits and enjoyment of the island's easygoing lifestyle.
Highlights include a Hemingway look-alike contest, prose and poetry readings, an offbeat running of the bulls, a street fair on Duval Street, a marlin fishing tournament and the culmination of a short-story competition directed by Ernest's granddaughter Lorian Hemingway, herself an author.
Events begin July 15 with museum exhibits celebrating Key West's leading literary residents. Participants can explore "Hemingway in Key West" at the Custom House Museum, 281 Front St., and the Tennessee Williams Exhibit at 513 Truman Ave., behind the Key West Business Guild Visitor Center.
About 125 burly, bearded contenders are expected for the Papa Hemingway Look-Alike Contest starting July 17 at Sloppy Joe's Bar, the author's former hangout at 201 Duval St. Ernest entrants are to parade their Papa personas before a judging panel of previous winners during preliminary rounds July 17 and 18, followed by finals set for July 19.
At noon July 19, look-alikes plan to stage "Photos with Papas" outside Sloppy Joe's and then spearhead the annual running of the bulls, a wacky takeoff on Pamplona's renowned run that features manmade bulls indigenous to Key West. Afterward, the bearded brethren are to host a pre-birthday event recognizing the 115th anniversary of Hemingway's July 21 birth.
Ernest's literary legacy is honored each year with the Lorian Hemingway Short Story Competition winners announcement and reception. Scheduled for July 18, it typically takes place at Casa Antigua, 314 Simonton St., the author's first Key West home.
Also planned are readings and book signings presented by the Literacy Volunteers of America-Monroe County, as well as the Key West Poetry Guild's "The Poems of Papa."
For anglers, the Key West Marlin Tournament provides a chance to emulate Ernest's passion for deep-sea fishing. The July 16 to 19 challenge offers cash prizes for top catches of marlin and other fish.
The Hemingway Days Street Fair is scheduled all day and evening July 19, transforming Duval Street into an open-air marketplace with arts, crafts, food vendors and the inaugural Bubba Cuzzy Shrimp-Off Competition. The fun benefits Helpline of the Florida Keys. For information, call 292-8445.
Festival events also include a 5K Sunset Run and Paddle Board Race, and Sloppy Joe's 28th annual Arm Wrestling Contest. In addition, Hemingway fans can visit the author's former home at 907 Whitehead St., now a museum open daily for tours.