Florida Keys

Tennessee man beats out 141 others to win Hemingway Look-Alike contest in Key West

A white-bearded retired banker beat out 141 contestants in the Ernest Hemingway Look-Alike Contest in Key West at the annual Hemingway Days festival.

Joe Maxey, 68, of Cedar Hill, Tennessee, in his eighth appearance at the contest, said his persistence paid off on Saturday night at Sloppy Joe’s Bar, where the three-round competition was judged by a panel of former winners.

“I love his writing,” Maxey said, after his victory. “He was a great writer and just to be part of this history of Hemingway is just incredible.”

Sloppy Joe’s was one of Hemingway’s favorite hangouts when he lived and wrote in Key West during the 1930s.

During this week’s Hemingway Days, dozens of “Hemingways,” most dressed like the later-day author with snowy-white beards, thick sweaters and red berets, roamed Duval Street and posed for photos with passersby.

Past lookalike winners include 2018’s Michael Groover, husband of celebrity chef Paula Deen.

Maxey said he can’t catch fish like Hemingway, who fought for deep-sea game fish in the waters between Key West and Cuba, but he shares other traits with the author of “For Whom the Bell Tolls,” and “The Sun Also Rises.”

“The one thing I have in common with Hemingway is I love mojitos,” he said. “And I love women, too.”

The lookalikes also spend the week raising money for scholarships to the College of the Florida Keys.

Gwen Filosa covers Key West and the Lower Florida Keys for FLKeysNews.com and the Miami Herald and lives in Key West. She was part of the staff at the New Orleans Times-Picayune that in 2005 won two Pulitzer Prizes for coverage of Hurricane Katrina. She graduated from Indiana University.