KEY WEST (CBSMiami/NSF) – After 15 years of trying, a white-bearded Florida man won the “Papa” Hemingway Look-Alike Contest, a highlight of Key West’s annual Hemingway Days celebration that ends Sunday.
Charlie Boice, 56, a retired air traffic controller from Palm Beach Gardens, triumphed over 121 other entrants in the final round of the contest that concluded late Saturday after a three-way tie. Preliminary rounds were held Thursday and Friday.
The annual Hemingway Days festivities salute the American literary master who lived and wrote in Key West during the 1930s.
“Winning the Hemingway Look-Alike Contest is fantastic,” said Boice, as he stood surrounded by former winners after his long-awaited victory. “Fifteen years is a long time, but when you’re hanging around with guys like this all the time … I would do it for another 15 years.”
Boice, who said he shared Hemingway’s passion for deep-sea angling, likened winning the contest to catching a trophy fish.
“I feel like a champion,” he said. “Hemingway was a champion; Hemingway did a lot of things. It’s like you caught that big thousand-pound marlin right about now.
Look-Alike Contest entrants were judged by past winners at Sloppy Joe’s Bar, a watering hole frequented by Hemingway.
Finalists included five-time competitor Michael Groover of Savannah, Ga., the husband of celebrity chef Paula Deen. Deen sat in the audience chering her husband.
Crowds of spectators cheered enthusiastically for their favorites as they paraded onstage and took turns speaking, attempting to convince judges that they best represented the author in his characteristic “Papa” persona. Some even sang or recited poetry as they pleaded to be chosen.
During his Key West years, Ernest Hemingway wrote classics including “For Whom the Bell Tolls,” “Death in the Afternoon” and “To Have and Have Not.”
Hemingway Days events included an offbeat “Running of the Bulls,” the three-day Key West Marlin Tournament and a short story competition directed by Hemingway’s author granddaughter Lorian Hemingway.
The competition helps to raise funds for college scholarship fund, administered by the Hemingway Look-Alike Society, comprised of former winners.
(©2015 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 This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.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 material for this report.)