KEY WEST (CBSMiami/FKNB) – More than 135 white-bearded men who look uncannily like Ernest Hemingway have converged on Key West, Hemingway’s home during the 1930s, to compete in the 36th annual “Papa” Hemingway Look-Alike Contest that began Thursday evening.

The competition is a highlight of the island’s Hemingway Days festival, honoring the writing talent and colorful lifestyle of the legendary author. During his Key West years, Hemingway penned classics including “For Whom the Bell Tolls” and “To Have and Have Not.”

READ MORE: MDFR Identifies "Voice In The Rubble" Victim

The three-night look-alike competition takes place at Sloppy Joe’s Bar, where the author often drank with friends.

Celebrity chef Paula Deen cheers for her husband Michael Groover as he competes in the

Celebrity chef Paula Deen cheers for her husband Michael Groover as he competes in the “Papa” Hemingway Look-Alike Contest Thursday, July 21, 2016, at Sloppy Joe’s Bar in Key West. (Rob O’Neal/Florida Keys News Bureau)

Thursday’s entrants included repeat contender Michael Groover of Savannah, Ga., husband of celebrity chef Paula Deen who was in the audience cheering Groover on when he was named a semi-finalist.

READ MORE: Gov. Ron DeSantis Signs Bill That Bans 'Picketing And Protesting' Outside A Person's Home

Closely observed by the judging panel of former winners, competitors paraded across Sloppy Joe’s stage. Most wore sportsman’s garb reminiscent of Hemingway’s characteristic attire, though one added a woman’s blonde wig, lipstick and jewelry to emulate actress Mariel Hemingway, Ernest’s granddaughter.

Before Thursday’s preliminary round, the judges celebrated the 117th anniversary of the author’s July 21 birth — complete with a cake.

The contest’s second preliminary round is set for Friday evening and the 2016 “Papa” is to be chosen Saturday night.

Hemingway Days continues through Sunday with events including an offbeat “Running of the Bulls,” literary readings and the Bacardi Oakheart Key West Marlin Tournament that recalls Hemingway’s passion for deep-sea fishing in Florida Keys waters.

MORE NEWS: Former Substitute Teacher Enreeka Nalasco Accused Of Giving Drugs To Teen Girls For Sexual Favors

The Florida Keys News Bureau contributed to this report.