Members of local Red Hat Society celebrate 12 years of fellowship
Dan Sanderson | Staff Writer
A group of Grayling ladies marked their 12th year of socializing, dining out on great meals, and having down right fun.
The Cherry Bon Bons, the local Red Hat Society, was founded in March 2005. Connie Minnick, who served as the first queen for the group, initiated the steps to found the local Red Hat Society.
“One of the premier women’s social organizations in the world, the Red Hat Society, which is based in Fullerton, California, began with the gift of a red hat and has grown into a universal symbol for women around the globe as they celebrate turning 50 and entering into the next phase of their lives,” according to www.redhatsociety.com.
“In the fall of 1997, on a trip to Tucson, Arizona, Sue Ellen Cooper impulsively paid $7.50 for an old red fedora in a thrift shop. When a good friend was nearing a ‘fifty-ish’ birthday, Sue Ellen cast about for an idea for an original gift. Inspired by a well-known poem, ‘Warning,’ which begins ‘When I am an old woman, I shall wear purple, with a red hat which doesn’t go and doesn’t suit me,’ she wanted to encourage her friend to grow older in a playful manner. She gave her friend a red hat of her own, suggesting that she keep it as a reminder to grow older playfully – on her terms,” according to the Red Hat Society web page.
“The symbolism behind the red hat had a profound impact on women Sue Ellen encountered. Those women responded by donning their own red hats and entering a new women’s movement embracing a renewed outlook on life filled with fun and friendship, fulfilling lifelong dreams,” according to www.redhatsociety.com.
The Cherry Bon Bons held their organizational meeting at the Ramada Inn of Grayling in April of 2005. The group traveled to Frankenmuth for its first outing.
The group has traveled as far as Detroit to view the musical “Menopause” and to St. Ignace and Mackinac Island for lunch at the Grand Hotel and horse rides on the island.
“They have fun, fellowship, and they are lifetime friends,” Minnick said. “I never get past that.”
The ladies wear red hats and purple outfits to go along with theme of the organization.
“It is a good outing, especially for people that don’t have partners. It’s something to look forward to,” Minnick said.
Minnick said the local ladies do not pay dues to be affiliated with the national organization.
“Our club opted not to go that route,” Minnick said. “We are just a local society.”
Instead, funds are collected at each outing and are donated for the Crawford County Community Health Center, which provides food and utility assistance to needy families. For every $1 donated, the Help Center can get $6 worth of food through its affiliation with the Food Bank of Eastern Michigan to get more bang for the buck.
Over the years, the Cherry Bon Bons have raised $1,296 for the Help Center, to help put food on the tables for those facing financial hardships.
“We’ve done a great job there,” Minnick said.
The City of Grayling hosted a Red Hat Day in 2008. Over 170 members from area Red Hat Societies attended the event. A parade was held down Michigan Avenue and downtown business offered discounts, games, and free items to participants.
“All the businesses gave things away,” Minnik said.
The gathering was never repeated.
“I had ladies calling me all over and from other groups,” Minnick said. “They wanted to do it again.”
Each month, a member of the society chooses a place to dine at and an activity. There are 19 members in the local group, and about 12 which attend the outing on a regular basis.
In August, the Cherry Bon Bons held a passing of the torch at an outing held at Gates AuSable Lodge. Minnick, who moved out of the community, relinquished her role as queen and passed it on to Lynn Hagon.
“They’re just lovely ladies. They’re fun,” Hagon said. “There are no rules. You just have fun. You get together and go different places.”
The society meets March through November, to accommodate members who travel to warmer climates for the winter and to eliminate travel on snow and ice covered roads for those that stay in the community.
“The Red Hat Society membership exploded through word of mouth, the purest form of viral marketing, growing from two chapters in 1999 to over 40,000 chapters worldwide within five years. Women everywhere resonated with the positive ideas of fun and friendship promoted by the Red Hat Society, and they were not about to be left out,” according to the Red Hat Society web page.