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Paula Deen and Husband Celebrate Hemingway Days in Key West

Paula Deen and Michael Groover pose wih fellow Hemingway lookalike outside Sloppy Joe's.
Paula Deen and Michael Groover pose wih fellow Hemingway lookalike outside Sloppy Joe's.
All photos by Laine Doss

This past Saturday, July 21, marked what would have been the 113th birthday of Ernest Hemingway. Each year, Key West celebrates the man who called the Conch Republic his home for a decade. The festivities culminate with the renowned Hemingway look-alike contest at Sloppy Joe's, where dozens of men with white beards and fishing shirts gather to see which one looks the most like Papa.

This year, one contestant received more attention than the others. Was he a dead ringer for the author who spent many days and nights in the bars of Key West? Well, yes, but the attention was directed more at his famous wife than him. You see, Michael Groover, a contestant from Savannah, Georgia, is married to none other than Paula Deen.


Paula Deen told Short Order that though she's not the biggest Hemingway

fan, husband Michael is. "He has all of his books." Deen said Groover had entered the competition a few years earlier on a whim, but

this year he was in it to win it.

This contestant has a-Peal.
This contestant has a-Peal.

During Friday's semifinals,

teams rooted for their favorite Papa. Steve Peal from Wilton Manors had a group waving bananas. John "Hurricane Hemingway" Wilt from

Lock Haven, Pennsylvania, wore boxing gloves and toted professional

campaign signs. Each contestant was called to the stage to

introduce himself and plead his case. Some recited parts of

Hemingway's stories. Some sang songs.

Michael Groover takes the Sloppy Joe's stage.
Michael Groover takes the Sloppy Joe's stage.

Michael Groover, in case attendees weren't aware of his spouse's fame, announced that his wife was Paula

Deen. The crowd went wild as Deen stood up and waved.

Paula Deen and feathered friend.
Paula Deen and feathered friend.

 

After

the semifinalists were announced (Groover made the cut), Deen took

pictures with fans, both human and feathered.

Groover and other Papas run the bulls in Key West.
Groover and other Papas run the bulls in Key West.

The next

day, there was a buzz around town. The owner of the local dog boutique

told us how Deen and Groover came in to shop for their puppy. A local

restaurateur bragged that Deen had brunched there. That afternoon,

Groover joined the annual "Running of the Bulls," a tongue-in-cheek

event that has the Hemingway doppelgängers parade with

wooden bovines. After a long, hot day, it was time for the semifinals and

finals of the look-alike competition.

Campaign sign features Paula Deen and Michael Groover.
Campaign sign features Paula Deen and Michael Groover.

As the 20 or so would-be Papas took the stage, Groover thanked his spouse.

"My wife took her family from poverty to fame. I am so proud of her," he

told the crowd, which spilled out of the packed bar onto Duval Street.

2012 winner Greg Fawcett of Corneilus, North Carolina.
2012 winner Greg Fawcett of Corneilus, North Carolina.

After much deliberation, six finalists were announced. (Groover was not one of them.) The "Papa 2012" title went to Greg Fawcett of Cornelius, North Carolina. That didn't discourage Groover, who promised to return for a third attempt next year.

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