Hemingway Days 2012 – The Full Story


In honor of Ernest Miller Hemingway, born on July 21, 1899

Papa fans celebrated the 32nd annual Hemingway Days with a variety of events July 18th-July 22nd, 2012. There was something for everyone, from participation in the three-day Key West Marlin  Tournament to a tour of the “Hemingway in Key West” Exhibition at the Custom House to Sloppy Joe’s Arm Wrestling Championship. Too much, in fact, to experience it all. In that way, this post’s title may be a bit misleading. I do promise to share all the Hemingway highlights from our particular trips–in this post and Monday’s. If you’re seeking more information about the writer and man please read my post, “Hemingway’s Key West Years.” 

I’d heard about the Papa Look-Alike Contest, and had seen the pictures, but it was disconcerting to stand in a roomful of one hundred or so white-bearded men–wearing khakis or early 20th century Spanish garb and striking Hemingway-like poses.

Let the crowds begin!

We attended the second evening of competition. The air in the packed pub sizzled with anticipation and the scent of Cuban cigars. A movie crew taped the event, making the experience even more surreal for Hemingway Days newbies like us.

Sign at Sloppy Joe’s

We searched for Hemingway descendants and heard rumors Paula Dean of FoodNetwork fame was present, her husband one of the Look-Alike hopefuls. We chatted with entrants like first-year competitor Papa James, who asked for support in exchange for a hug and photo.

One of many 2012 Papa Look-Alikes

By the time the competition began, we were jammed together in the steamy, open-air bar. We enjoyed the first two groups of eight contestants. They introduced themselves and each made a speech or told the judges why he should be the winner. One of the first-year competitors recited a lengthy Hemingway quote. It was great! Before the next of eight groups took the stage, we lightweights left the die-hard fans to their contest. We escaped to Lower Duval for sustenance and a bar with AC. If you were to attend, I’d suggest arriving early enough for a stool at the bar (maybe before 3?), increasing your chances of lasting all four hours.

Gotta love the Papas!

Parading of the Bulls

The following day, we joined other tourists on the corner of Greene and Duval for photos with the Papas. Like many Hemingway Days events, donations were accepted on behalf of charities benefitting local children. All Sloppy Joe events raised money for the Papa Look-Alike Society. This group awards annual scholarships to Key West Community College students. We watched as the Papas, some on Key West-like bulls, led a happy throng in a short parade around the block.

I’m thrilled to have scheduled our summer getaway to the Conch Republic during this festival. Not only was it a lot of fun, but an added bonus to be part of so many charitable events. It feels good to help others. Please come on back for the remaining highlights of our Hemingway Days on Monday, including photos from the 5K Hemingway Sunset Run. Until then, have a wonderful weekend doing what you love!

Have you ever attended Hemingway Days or a similar type of festival? If so, what are your favorite memories from the event?

Site of the orignal Sloppy Joe’s

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16 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Rhonda Hopkins
    Jul 27, 2012 @ 22:18:14

    OMG! How fun! I’ve never heard of this before and now I definitely want to go sometime. Awesome pictures too! :-)

    • Jolyse Barnett
      Jul 27, 2012 @ 22:40:49

      Thanks, Rhonda! Key West is tropically hot in July, but it was wonderful to experience Hemingway Days along with our usual getaway activities of biking, water sports, and dining.

  2. jeff armstrong
    Jul 28, 2012 @ 09:57:29

    great pics and story. We want to make a Hemingway Days soon. Cheers and have fun

    • Jolyse Barnett
      Jul 28, 2012 @ 15:54:08

      Hi Jeff! Thanks for stopping by. Key West was wonderful as always, and the Hemingway Days experience made it all the more interesting. The only disappointment was missing out on spearfishing due to bad weather. Oh well. We’ll have to save that for another time. Already, I miss riding our bikes all over Old Town, spending lazy mornings at the beach, enjoying romantic dinners at unpretentious 5-star quality restaurants, and people-watching on Duval. I look forward to sharing more of our memories in future posts, with the goal of tiding us over until the next trip. :)

  3. Marcia
    Jul 28, 2012 @ 19:49:27

    Sounds like so much fun! Can’t wait for the next installment!

  4. Melissa Smith
    Jul 29, 2012 @ 02:08:17

    Looks like a lot of fun!

  5. Lynda Barnaby
    Jul 29, 2012 @ 11:20:27

    So glad to read your blog and get more insight into your vaca …

    • Jolyse Barnett
      Jul 29, 2012 @ 11:49:36

      Hey Lyn! Great to see you here. Hope you’ve had a wonderful weekend, despite the poor weather here in the tri-state area. I’m working on Monday’s post, which has my favorite photos–sunset over the Atlantic. I’m debating whether anyone really wants to see a photo of me at the 5K finish line, all red-faced and sweaty, and overall relieved to be alive. :)

  6. Lynda Barnaby
    Jul 29, 2012 @ 15:46:41

    I thought I’d tiptoe here … my first comment to a blog posting! I think you should post both the good, bad and the ugly … how bad could it be?

  7. Donna Coe-Velleman
    Jul 30, 2012 @ 00:11:34

    Glad to see you had such a great time. But then you always do down there. : )
    Welcome back. You can always revisit Key West in your mind and have margarita while sitting in your living room.

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