Fifty-three women wearing red or pink hats and purple shirts, pants and dresses, converged on Weaver Park Sept. 25.

Fifty-three women wearing red or pink hats and purple shirts, pants and dresses, converged on Weaver Park Sept. 25.

The women were members of the Red Hat Society and they came from all over the state to visit the Historical Village, listen to music, enjoy ice cream and sarsaparilla soda, shop, socialize and play games for four hours on a sunny afternoon.

As Mike Stanley and Ray Pauken strummed and sang rock oldies from the gazebo, a couple of the Red Hatters played pantyhose golf – the hose was tied around the waist with an orange at the bottom, and the orange was swung like a croquet mallet to strike a rubber ball into a plastic bucket. The ladies who golfed were given beads or chocolates.

An even more comical Red Hatter game involved two ladies attempting to transfer a roll of toilet paper with two plungers.

The women also heard the Sweet Adelines, sang along with senior citizen entertainers in the chapel, and dined in downtown Hilliard.

"We just wanted to have something fun that would draw people from all over the state, and then they would come back and frequent the area," said Christy Clark, executive director of Destination Hilliard, which put on the event.

Clark said she knew some Red Hat members, and suggested the event. The invitation went out, and women from Cincinnati, Columbus, Dayton, Dublin, Kirkersville, Lewis Center, Middletown, and Vandalia turned up last weekend.

"They're a group of ladies that just get together and have fun and spend money," Clark said. "They're just a riot."

Not literally, but once, a bevy of Red Hatters caused enough concern for Polaris Fashion Mall security to consider them a gang.

The Red Hat Society was founded in 1998 when Sue Ellen Cooper gave a friend a red hat as a birthday gift in reference to a poem that begins, "When I am an old woman I shall wear purple/with a red hat that doesn't go and doesn't suit me."

According to Wikipedia, there are more than 70,000 registered members and almost 24,000 chapters of the society, making it the largest women's social group in the world. The members are typically 50 or older, but younger women can join – the only difference is they wear pink hats.

Carmela Criswell of Dublin was one of the Red Hat Society members at Weaver Park. She is the leader, or Queen, of the Crimson Crested Buckeyes, a decade-old Columbus chapter. Criswell said she had visited a flower shop where a Red Hat meeting was being held and was instantly converted.

"It is so much fun," Criswell said of the society. "It's probably the best therapy anybody could ever get. The sisterhood is amazing. We cry together, we laugh together, and we work together. It is like having sisters right there where you can count on them. When one gets sick, everybody prays. We send cards to one another, we support one another. We just have a lot of fun."