BY HENRY MAGENHEIM
KEY WEST, Fla. -- Although the 17th annual Hemingway Days
Festival was scrapped this summer because of a dispute between the
festival organizer and the late author's three sons, city hoteliers
should not have too many empty rooms, according to Vanessa
McCaffrey, general manager of Vacation Key West, a local tour
Her firm has more than doubled its business thus far this year,
and demand for Key West has been so strong that many hotels that
routinely had reduced their peak rates right after Easter in 1996
are doing so on May 1 this year.
The festival was slated for July 18 to 27, McCaffrey said,
explaining that Florida residents tend to escape to Key West in the
summer. Bookings are expected to remain brisk, she said.
Although McCaffrey did not want to see the festival cancelled,
she noted that Hemingway Days bookings represented only 5% of her
company's overall reservations in 1996, and she expected the
cancellation to have only "a slight effect" on her business and Key
West hotel occupancies.
But Vacation Key West's Hemingway Festival packages were big
sellers, she noted, and they even included T-shirts and other
"We still have the Hemingway Home, and there are plenty of other
activities for a visitor," she said.
In addition to traditional vacations, the operator offers
diving, the arts, heritage and ecology-related plans throughout the
Meanwhile, the Key West Hotel & Motel Association is looking
to replace Hemingway Days with another event, according to Jack
Smith, the group's executive director.
Hemingway Days usually yields about $250,000 worth of free
publicity for the city, according to Stuart Newman & Associates
in Miami, the Keys' public relations firm.
Sloppy Joe's Bar, the landmark that had been Ernest Hemingway's
watering hole, staged a Hemingway Look-Alike contest in Key West
every year and is expected to continue the tradition, possibly
around July 21, sources said, although the Hemingway name might be
According to a spokeswoman for the Florida Keys Tourist
Development Council, the festival drew some 10,000 visitors. Of
that total, about 6,000 were from outside Monroe County, which
encompasses the Florida Keys.
Spending by the out-of-towners during the festival week was
estimated at more than $2 million. Their average length of stay was
The dispute that led to the festival's cancellation occurred
when Hemingway's sons Jack, Patrick and Gregory sought compensation
for the use of the family name along with control of the festival's
content to assure "the integrity and quality of the name and
likeness of their father," according to Fashion Licensing of
America, the firm that is representing the three sons.
If these demands were not met, the sons threatened a lawsuit,
according to festival founder and organizer Michael Whalton. Thus,
he decided to cancel the event.
"There was no question that the family was looking for control.
We really have worked hard to find a balance of events to honor him
as a literary genius and a larger-than-life character," Whalton
Interviewed by Travel Weekly, Whalton said that the Hemingway
sons did not give any indication that they wanted to resolve the
He said during a press conference that he did not want a legal
battle with the Hemingways and preferred "to end on an up, rather
than let family politics bring the image down."
Meanwhile, Lorian Heming-way, a granddaughter of the author and
daughter of one of the heirs, backs Whalton.