Local Lookalikes Run With the Hemingways

By Kai Rambow

“Always do sober what you said you’d do drunk. That will teach you to keep your mouth shut.” – Ernest Hemingway

“There might have been some alcohol involved,” recalled Gary Mull.  Mull recently participated in the 41st Hemingway Look Alike contest.  Key West is a favorite destination for residents Janet Wright and Gary Mull.  They have sailed there a few times.  The contest was a great reason for another trip to Key West.

A good friend of Gary’s had been competing for several years. Paul encouraged Gary to grow a beard and enter the competition. Out of 140 contestants, Gary and Paul made the semi-finalist list of 25. The 25 were whittled down to five, and then a winner was selected.

Despite the hot and humid conditions, Key West was sold out. Created by the Hemingway Society, the contest isn’t just a fun event. The contest is used as a fundraiser for scholarships. Originally focused on literary related studies, the Society has put special emphasis on nursing students studying in the Keys.  There is a shortage of qualified health care professionals here. This was inspired by A Farewell to Arms.  This past year, 17 students received scholarships.

SCC resident, Gary Mull, right, participating in Key West’s 41st Hemingway Look Alike contest.

With over 140 contestants, it took two nights at Sloppy Joes to determine the semi-finalists.  Previous winners, called “Papas,” comprise the judges’ panel. Each contestant has 15 seconds to say or do something. Most spoke; a few, like Gary, sang; and one guy blew a conch shell.

“The whole thing was fun. Typically, most people here were interested in Hemingway and his work, so starting conversations was easy,” remembered Gary.  The third night a winner was selected.  A recreation of the running of the bulls was a highlight. Past winners get to ride one of the bulls on wheels in the parade.

TOP PHOTO: A previous winner rides a bull on wheels in downtown Key West.

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