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.
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, 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.
the semifinalists were announced (Groover made the cut), Deen took
pictures with fans, both human and feathered.
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.
As the 20 or so would-be Papas took the stage, Groover thanked his spouse.
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"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.
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.