Vibrant Vermont Vixens to Host Red Hat Society Bash in July

June 15, 2011  
Filed under Things to do

By Luke Baynes

With their flamboyant red hats and clashing purple outfits, the Vibrant Vermont Vixens have some advice for any woman seeking the elusive fountain of youth in the latest anti-aging cream or crash diet: 50 is the new 20.

“They get pretty rowdy,” said Vixens queen Nancy Young of her spry group of “Red Hatters,” all living proof that age is merely a state of mind. “These girls don’t sit down. Once they start, they don’t sit.”

There won’t be much sitting taking place at the Sheraton in Burlington on July 15 and 16, when the Essex Junction-based Vixens host the annual meeting of the Vermont Red Hatters, the state-level subgroup of the Red Hat Society, an international sisterhood of women age 50 and older.

The Red Hat Society was founded by Fullerton, Calif. resident Sue Ellen Cooper in 1998, based on the principle that women should greet middle age with verve, humor and élan. From a small handful of women getting together for tea and talk it has grown to over 70,000 members worldwide. Its distinctive red and purple dress code stems from Jenny Joseph’s poem “Warning,” which begins with the lines, “When I am an old woman I shall wear purple / With a red hat which doesn’t go, and doesn’t suit me.”

The aptly surnamed Young, who’s 60 but looks younger, could hardly be called an old woman, although her position of seniority in the Vixens has been unquestioned since she started the group in 2005.

“I tell my girls all the time: it’s not a democracy, it’s a monarchy,” she joked. But Young, who retired from her job as Operations Coordinator at New England Air Systems on May 20, will also soon be abdicating the Vixens throne to concentrate on her role as the newly elected state queen of the Vermont Red Hatters. It’s the kind of leadership position she wouldn’t have dreamed of before she became a member of the Red Hat Society.

“I used to be so shy. People can’t believe I’ve changed so much,” said Young of her development over the past six years. “I’ve become a lot more outgoing.”

Young also credits her fellow Red Hatters with helping her get through the most difficult period of her life, when her husband passed away after an extended battle with cancer. Before he died, he made her promise she would never quit attending Red Hat meetings.
“I wanted to quit. I said, ‘I can’t do this, I’ve got too much grief on my plate,’” Young said. “But you pick yourself up by the bootstraps and you just keep going and you think of other people. That’s what my husband would have wanted, and that’s exactly what I’ve done.”

Lorraine Matcovich, one of the “Original 10” members of the Vixens, agreed that becoming a Red Hatter changed her life.

“This is the only women’s group that I’ve ever belonged to,” said Matcovich. “I’ve loosened up a lot. To think that I show up to work actually in my red hat and clothes, instead of changing into them like I used to!”

Matcovich equated the Red Hat Society to a men’s group like the Elks Club or the Shriners, believing that it has empowered middle-aged women as individuals and in the media.

“Until the Red Hats, I think that our age group was a lost demographic,” Matcovich said. “If you look at TV shows, they’re mostly geared toward those 35 and under, or occasionally the very old. I think once the Red Hats started, (advertisers) realized what they were missing, because I’ve seen a lot more advertisements now geared toward our age group.”

The two-day event at the Sheraton will mark the second time the Vibrant Vermont Vixens have hosted the annual meeting of the Vermont Red Hatters. The first occasion was in 2007, when Governor and Mrs. Douglas were among the guests.

This year’s meeting will kick off the first evening with a performance by the local classic rock band The Hitmen. The next day will feature a PJ breakfast – red and purple pajamas, of course – and will also include a “Mad Hatters” tea party and a comedy routine by the Vermont Comedy Divas. The theme of the convention is fairy tales, with the slogan, “…And Dreams Do Come True.”

Young’s dream is that during her three-year term as state queen there will be scores of new members and new chapters of the Red Hat Society in Vermont. She hopes she can inspire women to come out of their shells and meet like-minded ladies who are comfortable in their own skins, regardless of how many wrinkles they have.

“My biggest joy is to see people that you wouldn’t think would be friends with one another who have made these lifelong friendships,” said Young.

For more information about the Vermont Red Hatters convention, contact Nancy Young at


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