KEY WEST — On his 68th birthday, a white-bearded Wisconsin man won the Hemingway lookalike contest, the culmination of Key West’s annual Hemingway Days celebration, which ends on Sunday.
Gerrit Marshall, a retired television broadcast engineer from Madison, dominated Saturday nights at Sloppy Joe’s, a bar frequented by Ernest Hemingway when he lived in Key West in the 1930s.
“This is the best birthday I’ve ever had,” said Marshall, whose birthday falls just one day after July 21, the anniversary of Hemingway’s birth.
On his 11th try, Marshall defeated almost 140 other contestants in a contest that included two preliminary rounds and a Saturday final.
Competitors dressed as the athletes who most emulated the gruff “daddy” that Hemingway adopted in his later years paraded on stage at Sloppy Joe’s in front of a panel of judges from previous winners.
Marshall has said that he shares several characteristics with Hemingway other than appearance, and writes both non-fiction and short fiction.
“Like Hemingway, I love nature; I fucking love fishing,” he said, referring to zander and northern pike fishing in Wisconsin waters, as well as tarpon fishing in the Florida Keys.
However, he said that he could not compare with the count of the late author’s four marriages.
“I only have one wife, but that doesn’t matter – that’s all I need,” Marshall said.
In addition to the competition and other festival activities, the doppelgangers are focused on fundraising for scholarships for Keys students. Hemingway Lookalike Society president David Douglas estimated that they had amassed about $125,000 during the 2023 festival.
Days of Hemingway pays homage to the energetic lifestyle and literary legacy of the Nobel laureate who wrote timeless classics, including For Whom the Bell Tolls and To Have and Have Not, while living in Key West from 1931 to late 1939.