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KEY WEST (CBSMiami/FKNB) — More than hundred men that look very much like Ernest Hemingway are in Key West this week – competing in the 37th annual Hemingway Look-Alike Contest that started Thursday night.

The competition is a highlight of Key West’s annual Hemingway Days festival honoring the writing talent, sporting pursuits and colorful lifestyle of the legendary author who lived on the island during the 1930s.

Thursday’s competitors included Michael Groover of Savannah, Ga., whose wife is celebrity chef Paula Deen. Deen was in the audience when Groover was named a semi-finalist.

kwp04 Ernest Rivalry Marks Hemingway Look Alike Contest

Jerry Jerele, left, is congratulated by other Hemingway Look-Alike contestants after they were chosen to be semi-finalists Thursday, July 20, 2017, at Sloppy Joe’s Bar in Key West, Fla. Some 160 contestants are registered for this year’s competition that is part of Key West’s annual Hemingway Days festival. Another preliminary round is scheduled for Friday, July 21, and the finals are set for Saturday, July 22. Author Ernest Hemingway lived in Key West in the 1930s. July 21 marks Hemingway’s 118th birthday anniversary. (Andy Newman/Florida Keys News Bureau via AP)

Thursday’s preliminary round was the first of three nights of competition at Sloppy Joe’s Bar, the Duval Street saloon where Hemingway often relaxed with local and literary cohorts.

Many “aspiring Ernests” are repeat contenders, including Groover. Most wear sportsman’s attire reminiscent of the author, and attempt to emulate the “Papa” persona of Hemingway’s later years as they swagger across Sloppy Joe’s stage.

Contest judges are former winners including North Carolina’s Dave Hemingway, the 2016 “Papa” who, despite his famous name, claims no relation to Ernest.

The second preliminary round is set for Friday and the 2017 winner will be chosen during Saturday night’s finals.

Hemingway Days continues through Sunday with events including an offbeat “Running of the Bulls” and the Havana Club Key West Marlin tournament. Ernest Hemingway wrote some of his most enduring classics in Key West including “For Whom the Bell Tolls” and “To Have and Have Not.”

(©2017 CBS Local Media, a division of CBS Radio Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Florida Keys News Bureau contributed to this report.)

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