2011 Winner: Matt Gineo
The first time I entered the Hemingway look-alike contest in Key West in 2000, I showed up with scraggly three-day beard, got up on stage and introduced myself as Matt Gineo, and was promptly booed right off the stage. I had my laughs, had a few drinks, and that was that.
This was quite a contrast to a just few months earlier when I met so many of the Papas at the Hemingway look-alike society mid-year reunion in my hometown of Jensen Beach Florida.
Luckily, rather than get discouraged, I took it as sage advice. If I'm gonna play with the big boys, I'd better get my best beard on.
The next year I spent more time with the guys at the mid-year reunion, and they encouraged me to give it another try. So, I let my beard grow for 30 days, met a lot more gentlemen in the society, and here I was back up on stage. I gave my little lines, and got a better reception from the crowd.
So there I go. Every year I started to making it a vacation time to go to Key West.
Lo and behold, I started making the top 24.
Then I made the top five.
Then I made the top 24. A lot of disappointment. In 2005 and 2006.
I started to hear stuff like "for you to win this contest, you need to sit down and have a few more beers with us." The camaraderie is the biggest thing of all, and of course the annual fundraiser, for the Florida Keys Educational Foundation.
So, from this point on, I really went about doing my best to be the most popular person down there. You win votes! And in my heart, I really decided that I needed to win this contest and I didn't care how many years it was going to be.
One year I didn't even make the top 24. I was so upset. I got off that island so fast. Said I'll ever come back.
Well, when the next June came around, I started growing my beard again, and I really put my mind to it. I'm gonna win this contest. And a couple of years later, in 2011, I finally did win it.