KEY WEST — There’s a new Ernest Hemingway look-alike in Key West.
Zach Taylor and his white beard won this year’s contest to celebrate the author during the island’s annual Hemingway Days festival.
The 63-year-old business owner from Ambrose, Georgia, beat out 136 other entrants at Sloppy Joe’s Bar, the Key West saloon where Hemingway frequently drank.
Competing in the contest is a family affair for Taylor. His late father-in-law, Carlie Coley, was the winner in 2000. His wife and mother-in-law shared his victory celebration Saturday night.
“Hemingway has been a fixture of ours since we started coming down to the contest,” said Taylor. “And you know, I think ‘Papa’ would be proud of what’s been accomplished in his name in a town he loved so well.”
Saturday night’s competitors paraded across Sloppy Joe’s stage, trying to impress the judging panel of former winners, while the audience cheered and applauded. In 2020, the contest was canceled because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Like Taylor, most 2021 entrants attempted to emulate the “Papa” persona adopted by the author in his later years. Some pleaded for victory through poems or song fragments including finalist David “Bat” Masterson, who accompanied his original tune on the harmonica.
As well as resembling Hemingway, Taylor said he shares the Nobel Prize-winning author’s passion for fishing, hunting and the life of an outdoorsman.
Hemingway wrote For Whom the Bell Tolls, To Have and Have Not and other classic books while living in Key West.
Festival events included an offbeat “Running of the Bulls,” literary readings, a short story competition, the Key West Marlin Tournament and a commemoration of the 122nd anniversary of “Papa’s” July 21 birth.