2019 Winner: Joe Maxey
My story to becoming PAPA 2019 is probably very similar to others. In 2010, I had grown a beard for the first time in my life. My wife and I decided to stop in at our favorite place in Key West, Sloppy Joe's, to buy t-shirts. When we walked in the man behind the counter stared at me. As I went to check out, he asked if I could stand under the picture of Ernest Hemingway; I laughed and did as he asked. He smiled, then said, "You look just like him! There is a contest in July that you have to come back and enter". I said, "A contest...in July? It is way too hot!" When we got back to Tennessee, I decided to research the Hemingway-Look-A-Like Contest. It looked like a lot of fun, so we decided to give it a try, not knowing that this would change my life.
My first year to this amazing adventure was in 2011. We were staying at Simonton Court. While there we met Brian and Vicki Dion, who were long term Hemingway fans. We told them we were there for the contest and had no idea what to do or expect. They immediately asked if we would like to meet one of the Papas and Mamas. I said, "That would be great!". Later that day, there was a knock on our door. When I opened it Papa Bob Doughty and Mama Randy were there with those big trademark smiles. Little did we know that would start a friendship that we would cherish to this day. That year, with their help, I made it to the finals on Saturday night and received my first medal. The hook was set.
The next four years was spent getting to know the Papas, Mamas, and my fellow wannabes. In this time, I was lucky enough to make it to Saturday night for three of those years. Then year six I made it to the final five, after that night I really felt like there was a chance I could win.
Fast forward to year eight, where I was number thirteen on the preliminaries and number thirteen in the finals. This made me extremely happy because this was Papa Bob Doughty's lucky number, plus I had the honor of wearing his fishing sweater. The pressure was on and I was as nervous as a cat on a hot tin roof. That night when my name was finally called for Papa 2019 all the memories and emotions from the last eight years came flooding back. The joy and excitement I felt was indescribable.
I was lucky enough to have my wife, family, and friends there to support me and to help celebrate, but most of all I had the support of Papas, Mamas, and the wannabes. I am forever grateful for this. When I spoke to the Papas on Saturday night, I told them this contest is about family and the relationships we have made during this journey. The Papas, Mamas, staff at Sloppy Joe's, and the wannabes are my cherished friends and family forever.