Key West celebrates Hemingway Days because Ernest Hemingway is a local hero around Key West, just like Jimmy Buffett. Neither man lived very long in Key West, but this city has embraced both as native sons. Both have brought very good things to Key West, including celebrity cache, culture, and a legacy of tourist destinations that will aid Key West’s economy for decades to come. Ernest Hemingway lived in Key West for less than a decade in the 1930s, yet his home at the time is now one of the top tourist hot spots in town. It’s been preserved and you can take a guided tour. Key West also celebrates the famous writer with its annual Hemingway Days, each July.
Hemingway Days is six days of Hemingway Lookalike Contests, a fake running of the bulls, and an arm-wrestling contest on the final day. Running of the bulls and the arm wrestling celebrate the macho side of Ernest Hemingway, and both take place in Sloppy Joe’s, which was his favorite bar while living in Key West.
The Saturday of event is a big day because at noon the Papas gather in front of Sloppy Joe’s for a photo op with their bulls. They seem a little stewed from the beer and standing around in the hot midday sun having their pictures taken, or maybe it’s just the heat, but they’re jolly and good natured and loving the attention. And they all look like Ernest Hemingway! This is no rinky dink contest. People who run Hemingway Days are serious about the lookalike contest! These guys are competitors and when you study them there is no clear winner. Apparently having a white beard and white hair isn’t the only thing it takes.
Running of the Bulls
The “bulls” here are fake, just like the Papas. They are on wheels and you can sit on them-they get pushed around the block with Hemingway lookalikes perched on them, with the rest of the Papas trailing along for the Running of the Bulls. It starts in front of Sloppy Joe’s at 1 pm on Saturday. They go away from Duval Street, towards Ann Street, then they take a right and come up on Caroline Street to round out the block onto Duval Street. Photographers, go stand in front of the Curry Mansion Inn and get a photo of them coming up the street just before they turn the corner to head back to Duval. Hemingway Days features a very slow-moving parade (it’s the bulls’ fault) so you won’t have to worry about missing your shot!
There’s more than just lots of Papas walking around. Duval Street is closed off and the vendors move in to fill the street. Get hot sizzling burgers and dogs, Cuban food, slushees, and buy all the local art you could ever want during Hemingway Days.