Red Hat ladies just want to have fun

In full regalia, Red Hat members from around the area converged on the Quil Ceda Creek Casino including from left, Northshore’s Cheryl Gibson and Queen Odette Winship. - TOM CORRIGAN The Marysville Globe
In full regalia, Red Hat members from around the area converged on the Quil Ceda Creek Casino including from left, Northshore’s Cheryl Gibson and Queen Odette Winship.
— image credit: TOM CORRIGAN The Marysville Globe

TULALIP The quips and one-liners were almost as common as purple outfits and red hats.

Often large red hats.

With big feathers.

"We don't look like kids anymore, but we're still kidding around," said Queen Odette Winship.

Winship also insisted the first rule of her particular Red Hat group, headquartered in Northshore, is that desert must be eaten first. Shopping is, she added, the national sport of the Red Hat Society.

Founded 10 years ago, the Red Hat Society has grown to be a national phenomenon, said Keely Mather, who, with mom Patsy Tull, helped start what is apparently one of several Red Hat groups in Marysville. Tull died three years ago, but Mather has kept the group going with a mixture of her and her mom's friends.

"Basically, what it's all about, is everybody gets together and has a good time," Mather said.

A promotions director for Quil Ceda Creek Casino, Mather has hosted Red Hat Society gatherings at the casino in the past. But at the urging of another Red Hat Queen, the 10th anniversary of the national group evolved into a natural time to gather together hundreds of Red Hatters from all over northwest Washington.

While many talked about community service and volunteering for their churches or other organizations, just as many, if not more, talked about the same thing Mather mentioned: getting together and having a good time.

"We just decided to get together and have a fun group," said Janice McMahan of Everett.

"It's just a social group," declared Queen Judith Reeves of Edmonds.

By the way, don't bother asking twice if "Beach Broads" is the name of Reeves' Red Hat group. It is.

In terms of another by the way, "queen" is, if you didn't know or haven't guessed, the title given to the leader of any Red Hat group. Judging from the Red Hat Web site, the Queen Mother is Sue Ellen Cooper, the original founder of the Red Hat Society.

"The Red Hat Society began as a result of a few women deciding to greet middle age with verve, humor and élan," Cooper states on the Web site, summing up the mission of the group she started. "We believe silliness is the comedy relief of life and since we are all in this together, we might as well join red-gloved hands and go for the gusto together."

Actually, the uniform, if you will, of the Red Hat Society consists, firstly, of course, of a red hat. Deliberately meant to clash with those red hats are the purple outfits that make up the rest of the Red Hat Society dress code.

For the most part, Red Hatters are age 50 or older. Younger members such as Mather are known as "pink hatters," and their official wear includes pink hats and lavender clothes. Pink Hatters must "graduate," as Mather put it, to full Red Hat status.

Incidentally, some of the events Mather has put together for her group include predictable outings and dinners, but also such things as hula hoop contestants and something called "Liar's Tea," which, while a bit tamer than the name might imply, would still take a few paragraphs to explain.

For the Quil Ceda bash, among other activities, Mather brought in a senior citizen comedian and organized a fashion show.

"You can't get all dolled up in full regalia and not show it off," Mather said.

"What it's all about is friends and fun and gossip," said Marysville's Philly Sansaber, representing a Marysville Red Hat group separate from Mather's.

"And, of course, it's about getting away from your husband," Sansaber added.

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