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“Fun with the girls in Belleville”

By Sarah Vissers

Bonnie Kerwin first saw the Red Hat Society about a decade ago in a restaurant. A group of 70-something women entered the restaurant laughing and chatting away in their big flamboyant hats.

Kerwin thought that when she got older, she would join.

A few years later, after attending a play in Stirling, Kerwin and some friends stumbled across a Red Hat vendor located above the theatre. Once they tried on those hats on, they were hooked!

“You know what, these hats, believe it or not, you put these hats on and you feel different, you feel like a different person. And they’re so outrageous.

“It’s like when you’re a little kid and you’re wearing your mother’s high heels around the house, or getting into your mothers lipstick and putting it all over your face, that kind of thing.”

The Belleville branch of the club was started by Kerwin, which makes her the “queen” of the group, in November 2012. They currently have seven members, and are looking for more.

“It’s like a sisterhood, in a way, because you’ve reached a point in your life where you’re not jealous of other women like you maybe were when you were younger. It’s more about yourselves, and just enjoying each other’s company because everybody’s so different,” says Kerwin.

Club members meet once a month, and every member takes a turn planning an outing. Anything goes: a potluck, a barbecue, dinner and a movie, a concert, or any variety of activities that are fun, lively, and that everyone enjoys.

“I think it’s a really fun thing for women to get into and make new friends and enjoy having a night out with the women. And doing different things and learning about different things. Because everybody has such different personalities, it brings a lot more to a group of women,” says Kerwin.

Bonnie’s younger aunt, Janice Paton, says, “Bonnie is always a lot of fun.”

Paton and Kerwin and another woman Janet Fearon have been having monthly social gatherings for awhile. Paton says the Red Hat Society is an offshoot of that.

“I think Bonnie thought it would be fun to maybe expand it a bit, maybe get to know some other women we wouldn’t necessarily meet and kind of just twist it up a bit,” says Paton.

The Red Hat Society’s official website, under the heading “Our Passion” outlines the five core principles: fun, friendship, freedom, fulfillment and fitness.

Kerwin embodies these values: “As you get older you think I’m just happy to be who I am, and enjoy myself and talk with different people. To me, that’s what the Red hatters are all about, is having fun and meeting new people.”