SPRINGFIELD, IL – A sea of purple t-shirts and red hats flooded the Director’s Lawn today during a luncheon hosted by the Red Hat Society to celebrate the state fair’s Senior Citizens’ Day.
The Red Hat Society is a societal group of women over 50 who share one thing in common – their red hats. With 40,000 chapters nationwide and approximately 1.5 million members, the Red Hat Society has quite an influence. In Illinois alone, 20 cities beginning with the letter “A” have Red Hat chapters, with many of the cities having more than one chapter.
Following the 11 a.m. luncheon the crowd was entertained by Elvis impersonator Elvis Himselvis, an Egyptian belly dancing tribe, the Lotus Fire, and others. Members also had the chance to enter into a raffle with prizes that included Red Hat mugs, bandanas, baseball caps, and cozies.
The Red Hat Society also held a red hat contest to see who had the most creative red hats. The event appropriately began with judges being given their own red baseball caps, and featured fifteen contestants competing for the title of Red Hat Grand Marshal. One contestant represented the 4-H club with a green four-leaf clover and matching green tulle. Another dressed up like Miss Illinois from 1853, the year of the first state fair, and wore a red bonnet. Others incorporated a bouquet of flowers, stuffed animals, eccentric red and purple flowers, and toys into their hats. All of them, of course, were red.
The winner, Helen Lilly, of Petersburg, incorporated this year’s theme, “Celebrate and Educate,” into her design. The hat was decorated with pennies and wooden pins, among them chalkboards, stars, schools, pens, notebooks, rulers, and apples. The hat also had glittery, sequin balls around the bill and purple beads and feathers around the bulge. Purple tulle hung from back of the hat.
Lilly said her hat creation wasn’t just her idea. The members of her Springfield chapter, the Yo-Yo Red Hat Sisterhood, helped not only with the idea, but also assisted in designing and assembling the hat. In fact, it was a toss up between her and fellow chapter member Carol Maggio to see who would wear it at the luncheon.
Maggio said the hat was finished in about an hour thanks to the help from the chapter.
“It took a lot of glue guns and women,” she said.
This was the first year the Yo-Yo Red Hat Sisterhood chapter, which began in January 2005, has entered the hat contest. Lilly’s prizes included a carousel, a red hat box, a camera that the society had been taking pictures with all day, and a photo album.
Lilly was also featured in the daily 4 p.m. parade thanks to her win.
Illinois Building/Senior Center hosts various activities for seniors
Through the duration of the fair, the Illinois Building/Senior Center will have various activities available for seniors to become better educated on state services available to them. A wide variety of entertainment and informational sessions are planned, including a workshop on insurance fraud sponsored by the Illinois Secretary of State’s office. The office also sponsors the Illinois Library booth, which has information on Braille and audio books for the visually impaired, and a booth for driver’s license renewal.
St. John’s Hospital offers a number of free screenings for seniors, including screenings for skin cancer, cholesterol, blood pressure, glucose, stroke prevention, bone density, heart disease and body fat.
Along with free screenings, several state agencies including the Departments of Public Health, Veterans’ Affairs, Employment Security and the Treasurer’s Office, all have informational booths set up. AARP has a tent set up for the duration of the Fair. The Illinois Optometrist’s Association offered free vision checks today to all seniors, and Bingo served as the main indoor entertainment for the day.
Charles D. Johnson, director of the Illinois Department on Aging said that putting together the events for the Senior Center is a year-round job.
“We start planning and getting booths usually around October or November,” he said. “About the only month we’re not working on this is September.”