Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Take Red and Purple, Mix in Kazoos And

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Take Red and Purple, Mix in Kazoos And

Article excerpt

Byline: Sandy Strickland, Staff writer

The Red Hat Chili Peppers will make their local public debut at high noon July 26. And they expect heads to turn when they make a grand entrance into Chili's on San Jose Boulevard in Mandarin.

Why? For starters, they'll be dressed in red hats, purple ensembles and a red boa or two. And did we mention they'll march in tooting kazoos?

No, it has nothing to do with the groundbreaking Los Angeles metal-funk band. These Chili Peppers are into aging with attitude.

"We want to be as outrageous as possible," said Fran Hurst, founder of the Red Hat Chili Peppers, Jacksonville's newest Red Hat Society chapter. "We're going to kick up our heels."

The society is a social club for women 50 and older who meet for lunch in red hats and purple dresses. The Red Hatters have found a niche in the Jacksonville area with 36 chapters, including one for breast cancer survivors, listed on the society's national Web site. Some are still open to new members.

The latest chapter was formed three weeks ago at Hurst's Westside home. Its 11 members come from all over town--Mandarin, San Jose, San Marco, Northside, Timuquana, St. Augustine. One even lives in San Jose, Calif., but won't have to jet cross-country because she's moving to Melbourne, Fla.

The society was founded in 1998 by a Fullerton, Calif., woman, Sue Ellen Cooper, and has since spread across the United States, Australia and Canada. Its inspiration comes from Jenny Joseph's 1961 poem, Warning, about a woman who's reached an age when she feels free enough to wear purple with a red hat that doesn't suit her.

The society's only rule is there is no rule, said Hurst, 61, a retired Sears Roebuck credit manager who is the chapter's queen mother.

"We're a group of ladies who aren't ashamed to admit we're over 50 and who can get together for a good time," Hurst said. "During that time, we won't be talking about husbands, jobs, grandchildren or family. …

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