Ernest Hemingway Days Set to Celebrate the Literary Icon from July 18-23 in Key West, Florida

Fans of Ernest Hemingway, the Nobel laureate, are gearing up for a week-long celebration in honor of his life, work, and lifestyle. The annual Hemingway Days festival is scheduled for Tuesday through Sunday, July 18-23, and pays homage to Hemingway's illustrious legacy. He lived and penned many of his iconic works on the island during the 1930s.

The highlights of the festival will include:

  • The renowned Hemingway® Look-Alike Contest.
  • Presentations and a walking tour exploring Hemingway's Key West years.
  • The tongue-in-cheek “Running of the Bulls.”
  • A reading of his lesser-known poetry.
  • A commemoration of his July 21 birthday.
  • Running and paddleboarding challenges that salute Hemingway's love for sports.
  • An exuberant street fair.
  • A high-stakes, three-day marlin tournament reflecting his passion for Florida Keys angling.

The festival will officially kick-off on Tuesday, July 18, with a lecture from Rebecca Johnston, the president of the Florida Hemingway Society. Johnston will focus on Hemingway’s experience with the 1935 hurricane that shaped his Key West novel “To Have and Have Not.”

Another key event will be a happy-hour presentation about Hemingway’s life in Key West, delivered by Cori Convertito, the curator and historian for the Key West Art & Historical Society.

The Hemingway® Look-Alike Contest, conducted annually at Sloppy Joe's, is arguably the most colorful event. More than 125 stocky, bearded contestants vie for the title of "Papa," chosen by past winners. The preliminary rounds will be held at 6:30 p.m. on Thursday and Friday, July 20 and 21, with the final round scheduled for Saturday, July 22.

The "Papas" also contribute to the festival's other events, including the infamous “Running of the Bulls” held at 1 p.m. on Saturday, outside Sloppy Joe's, featuring man-made bull replicas. The event pays homage to Hemingway's fascination with bullfighting.

The Key West Marlin Tournament, scheduled from Wednesday to Saturday, July 19-22, offers participants an opportunity to imitate “Papa’s” devotion to deep-sea fishing. Participants will compete for $50,000 in guaranteed cash prizes while hunting marlin and spearfish, sailfish, tuna, dolphin fish, and wahoo.

Coinciding with the festival is the Lorian Hemingway Short Story Competition, coordinated by Ernest Hemingway’s author granddaughter. Every year, the winners are announced, and the top story gets its first public reading during Hemingway Days.

Additional Hemingway Days events comprise the 5k Sunset Run and Paddleboard Race, a lively Saturday street fair on Key West’s Duval Street, and a Sunday walking tour of sites related to the island's most celebrated literary inhabitant.