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 Tuesday through Sunday, July 15-20.
The Nobel Prizewinning author lived in Key West 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 "Papa" Hemingway look-alike contest, prose and poetry readings, an offbeat "Running of the Bulls," a street fair on Key West's famed Duval Street, a marlin tournament and the culmination of an internationally recognized short story competition directed by Ernest's author granddaughter Lorian Hemingway.
Events begin Tuesday, July 15, with museum exhibits celebrating Key West's leading literary residents. Attendees 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.
Approximately 125 burly, bearded contenders are expected for the "Papa" Hemingway Look-Alike Contest starting Thursday, 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 Thursday and Friday, followed by finals set for Saturday, July 19.
At noon Saturday, look-alikes plan to stage "Photos with Papas" outside Sloppy Joe's and then spearhead the annual "Running of the Bulls" -- a wacky take-off on Pamplona's renowned run that features man-made 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.
Ernests literary legacy is honored each year with the Lorian Hemingway Short Story Competition winners announcement and reception. Scheduled Friday, July 18, it typically takes place at Casa Antigua, 314 Simonton St., the legendary author's first Key West residence.
Also planned are readings and book signings presented by Literacy Volunteers of AmericaMonroe 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 16-19 challenge offers cash prizes for top catches of marlin and other fish.
The Hemingway Days Street Fair is scheduled all day and evening Saturday, 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 305-292-8445.
Festival events also include the 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 Key West home at 907 Whitehead St., now a museum open daily for tours.