The three winners of the Kentucky Derby Hat contest at Cahill Senior Center. From left to right, Most elegant: Higinia Garcia. Most extravagant: Barbara Lindsay. Most creative: Linda Flores, in Tempe, Ariz.(Photo by Kendall Bartley/ Cronkite News)

April 28, 2016

Cronkite News

Hats off to these women decorating big hats for Kentucky Derby

Kentucky Derby
Betty Molina hard at work creating a hat for the Kentucky Derby at Cahill Senior Center, Wednesday, April 20, 2016, in Tempe, Ariz.(JMC Photo/Kendall Bartley)

Women oohed and aahed as Betty Molina folded and glued the pink, sparkly sheer ribbon around a floppy straw hat.

Molina wanted to create something extravagant by combining pink ribbon, large pink butterflies and flowers shaded in pink. It was big, bright, and bold: perfect for the Kentucky Derby.

It was party time at the April luncheon at Cahill Senior Center in Tempe. There weren’t any bubbly bottles of champagne, but plenty of effervescence as the women indulged their most extreme impulses to turn hats into glorious decor for the Derby.

Molina, who suggested the idea last year, said she had been giddy for a month as she thought about the upcoming decorating party. The center is known for hosting hat parties, including one with a Mad Hatter theme.

Molina wanted to cover her hat in pink after reading that pink was the original color of the Kentucky Derby.

Christina Wilson, senior recreation coordinator, said women were excited about the hat-decorating event at the monthly luncheon, attended by about 50 people.

“They have been printing ideas off the internet and gathering ideas,” Wilson said. “ And seeing how big they want their hats to be and how extravagant, or how many flowers.”

Molina and her fellow hat decorators had sticky hands after gluing bows, ribbon, fake birds, and even candles.

Some women even attached beads around the edge of a hat to dangle over the side.

The big-hat tradition at the Derby was started by the founder of the Kentucky Derby in a move to make the racetrack a draw for high society, inspired by the London Epsom Derby and the Paris Grand Prix.

Not that any of the hat-decorators would attend the Derby in early May. But they could still show off their hats at home in Arizona.

Being at the Derby is not as important as time spent at the center, Molina said.

“We consider ourselves family because without Cahill I was headed the wrong way. They saved my life,” said Molina, who started going to Cahill after a divorce.

“This is the place to be for us seniors,” she said.

Molina had hoped the pink palette would lead to a win in the decorating contest but her hat didn’t make the top list. The winners were

Barbara Lindsay for most extravagant, Higinia Garcia for most elegant and Linda Flores for most creative.

By Kendall Bartley, Cronkite News