KEY WEST, Florida Keys — Stocky white-bearded Ernest Hemingway look-alikes, aspiring writers and fans of Hemingway’s work are to converge on Key West Tuesday through Sunday, July 21-26, for the island city’s 29th annual Hemingway Days.
The festival, which begins on the 110th anniversary of Hemingway’s July 21 birth, honors the legacy of the American literary giant who lived and wrote in Key West throughout the 1930s.
Events include a look-alike contest for Hemingway imitators, a leading American short story competition directed by the author’s granddaughter, literary readings and book signings, a museum exhibit of rare Hemingway memorabilia, a zany “Running of the Bulls” spoof featuring Hemingway look-alikes, a one-man play exploring Ernest’s life and motivations, and a three-day marlin tournament recalling his devotion to the deep-sea sport.
The festival’s leading literary event is the announcement of the winners of the Lorian Hemingway Short Story Competition. Now in its 29th year, the internationally recognized contest awards $2,000 annually to emerging writers of short fiction.
Lorian Hemingway, best known for her powerful memoir “Walk on Water,” is to announce the victorious writers and introduce the first-place story at an 8 p.m. reception Friday, July 24. The awards gala is to take place at Casa Antigua, 314 Simonton St., where Ernest Hemingway stayed during his first visit to Key West in 1928.
For contest information, visit www.shortstorycompetition.com.
Other literary highlights include “Voices, Places, Inspirations,” an evening of readings, discussions and presentations by prominent writers and journalists. Scheduled participants are author and journalist Lorian Hemingway, “Crazy in Alabama” author and screenwriter Mark Childress, mystery/nonfiction author and photographer Tom Corcoran and author/photographer and expert angler Jeffrey Cardenas.
The presentations are to take place at 8 p.m. Wednesday, July 22, at Wyland Galleries, 623 Duval St.
The following day, fans of good writing can attend a reception and book signing featuring Tom Corcoran and Lorian Hemingway. The event is set for 5:30-7 p.m. at the Key West Art Bar, 901 Caroline St.
As many as 125 men resembling Ernest are to vie for the coveted title of “Papa” during Sloppy Joe’s Hemingway Look-Alike Contest. The three-night competition begins with a preliminary round at 6:30 p.m. Thursday, July 23, at Sloppy Joe’s, 201 Duval St., Hemingway’s favorite Key West watering hole.
A second preliminary round takes place at 6:30 p.m. Friday, with finalists advancing to the hard-fought contest finale at 6:30 p.m. Saturday, July 25. Past look-alike winners choose the victor from the field of Hemingway hopefuls, and contestants traditionally bring exuberant cheering sections that pack Sloppy Joe’s each night.
The bearded brethren also take part in other festival activities, including the wacky “Running of the Bulls.” Saluting Spain’s annual adventurers’ challenge, Key West’s “bull bash” takes to the streets surrounding Sloppy Joe’s beginning at 1 p.m. Saturday. The bulls themselves might be manmade replicas, but the enthusiasm of parading participants is as real as their thick white beards.
Other look-alike events traditionally include public photo opportunities, a dockside “fish-off” and scholarship presentations to Florida Keys students.
During Hemingway’s Key West years, he spent much of his leisure time fishing for “big game” in Florida Keys waters. His passion for sport fishing is celebrated in the 2009 Key West Marlin Tournament, set for Wednesday through Saturday, July 22-25.
Participating anglers are to pursue marlin, tuna, dolphin fish and wahoo while competing for $250,000 in available cash prizes.
The tourney is scheduled to begin with registration, captains meeting and auction Wednesday, July 22, at Conch Republic Seafood Co., 631 Greene St. Anglers are to spend the following three days fishing in Keys waters and taking part in activities including an island-style pig roast, dockside fish fry, party on Key West’s famed Duval Street and Saturday night awards banquet.
For more information and registration, visit www.keywestmarlin.com.
Turning from angling to acting, theater fans can watch actor and playwright Brian Gordon Sinclair present the fifth one-man play in his six-part “Hemingway On Stage” series. Based on his research into Hemingway’s life in the United States and abroad, Sinclair’s performance is titled “The Death Factory” and is set to debut at 7 p.m. Tuesday, July 21, at Key West’s Waterfront Playhouse at Mallory Square.
A second performance is to be offered at 11 a.m. Thursday, July 23, in honor of Sloppy Joe’s late manager emeritus Jean Klausing.
Directly after the play’s opening performance, Sinclair is to present Canada’s Hemingway On Stage Award. Subsequently, a reception and birthday party for Ernest Hemingway are scheduled at the Key West Museum of Art & History at the Custom House, 281 Front St.
Hemingway aficionados also can view an ongoing exhibition at the museum that features rare Hemingway family photographs, documents and memorabilia relating to the author’s personal life in the island city.
Other events during the festival include daily tours of Ernest’s former Key West home at 907 Whitehead St., Sloppy Joe’s Hemingway Days Arm Wrestling Championship, a lively Caribbean street fair along Duval Street, a 5k sunset run and a sidewalk art show outside the illustrious Green Parrot Bar that spotlights Key West’s creative spirit.
Additional festival information is available at www.hemingwaydays.net.
For lodging information in Key West, contact the Key West Chamber of Commerce at 1-800-LAST-KEY (800-527-8539) or visit the Keys Web site at www.fla-keys.com