Whether composing novels in his Whitehead Street writing studio or fishing for big game in local waters, Pulitzer Prize-winning author Ernest Hemingway left a powerful legacy in Key West.
So what better way to celebrate his zest for life, literary accomplishments and enduring affection for the island he called home throughout the 1930s than by throwing an annual birthday bash in his honor? This year, our tiny island commemorates the 119th anniversary of Ernest’s July 21st birth on Tuesday, July 16 through Sunday, July 21 in true Key West style.
Not surprisingly, the headquarters for much of the revelry is Sloppy Joe’s, which happened to be the real Hemingway’s favorite watering hole. One of the most popular highlights of the celebration is Sloppy Joe’s annual look-alike contest for stocky white-bearded men resembling Hemingway. Preliminary rounds take place 6:30 pm on Thursday and Friday with the grand finale on Saturday at 6:30 pm.
On Saturday at 1 pm, throngs of Papas descend outside Sloppy Joe’s during the “Running of the Bulls,” a zany race spoofing one of Hemingway’s favorite Pamplona adventures. Get there early because, at noon, the look-alikes will be on hand for “Photos with Papa.” Other festivities include Saturday’s Hemingway Days Caribbean Street Fair on Duval Street and Saturday night’s 5k sunset run through Old Town Key West.
On Sunday, you can enjoy a sidewalk art show outside the legendary Green Parrot Bar or stroll back over to Sloppy Joe’s for the annual Arm Wrestling Contest – always a festival favorite.
Hemingway’s passion for fishing is celebrated with the high stakes Key West Marlin Tournament which runs from Wednesday, July 17 through Saturday, July 20 and includes an island-style pig roast and dockside fish fry. But bullfights and safaris are just the half of it. There are plenty of cool literary happenings, as well. Events include the Lorian Hemingway Short Story competition and Awards Gala; writers’ readings and presentations; and the one-person play, “Hemingway On Stage” by actor and playwright Gordon Sinclair. This fascinating production takes to the stage at 8 pm on Thursday and again at 11:30 am on Friday at Key West’s Red Barn Theater.
You also don’t want to miss the special exhibition of rare Hemingway memorabilia at the Key West Museum of Art & History. Oh, and be sure to visit “Papa’s” former Key West home, now the Ernest Hemingway Home & Museum at 907 Whitehead St.
For Look-Alike Event info call 305-292-8445; Literary event info: 305-294-0320