Women wearing purple ensembles crowned with red hats covered in sparkles, feathers and bows filled a ballroom Saturday in Phoenix for the seventh annual Arizona Red Hat Convention. The event featured entertainers and vendors selling everything from red-and-purple purses to license plates with Red Hat Ladies embellishments.
Red Hat Ladies from more than 400 chapters exchanged laughs and stories, a reminder to many that life does not end after 50.
"We have spent the first 50 years taking care of everyone else, so the rest of our lives should belong to us," said Betty Shelton, "Queen Mum" of the Ritzy Reds Livin' Grand in Surprise.
Janie Rausch, "Queen Mum" of the Decadent Dames Phoenix Chapter, said she started Arizona's first chapter in 2001, and the state now has more than 1,200.
"It has just been a wonderful organization for so many women," Rausch said.
The Red Hat Ladies society serves as a support network for many women who have lost husbands or who are at a difficult point in their lives, Rausch said.
Many of the women from as far away as California sported canes or walkers, but they did not let the devices hold them back from making it to Phoenix.
"You get to meet lots of women and do women things," said Jane Cushing, a resident of Apache Junction and owner of Red Hat Fun Stuff in Mesa, a store that creates custom hats, jewelry badges and various articles that Red Hat Ladies may be interested in owning.
The group's next event will be a Derby Day on Saturday.
Women wanting the join a chapter should call (480) 361-9336 or visit www.azredhats.com.