Call her Queen, but Ruth Smart believes one is never too old to dress up and act like royalty.
On Thurs., March 21, Smart and her red-hatted royal family, The Prairie Chicks, will celebrate 10 years as a chapter of the international Red Hat Society with an old English High Tea at the Westhaven retirement home in St. James.
"It’s a bond between us, to have fun with life, what’s left of it," said Smart, who has served as Queen of The Prairie Chicks since 2005.
The local chapter, one of 54 in Manitoba, formed in 2003 shortly after the Red Hat Society craze began spreading out of California in the late 1990s to the rest of the world.
Known for their flashy grandeur, which includes stylish red hats matched with purple regalia, the societies are a social group for women over the age of 50. Each member is encouraged to give themselves a royal title like countess, princess or goddess.
A majority of the group’s 25 members are from St. James, but draw women from Charleswood, Fort Richmond and The Maples, said Smart, who has lived in St. James since 1957.
"We drink tea, have fun and pretend we’re royalty," Smart said.
"It’s for the grandmothers, mothers and daughters who have worked all ther lives and now it’s time for them to have some fun.
"Our goal is to have fun. That’s why we call ourselves a ‘disorganization’ rather than an ‘organization,’" she said.
The Chicks meet for lunch once a month, and explore the province, from the snake pits of Narcisse to the factory cheese shop in New Bothwell.
The society is an important lifeline for those facing increasing isolation as they grow older, Smart said.
"If it wasn’t for our involvement, a lot of us would be sitting home just growing old," she said.
"There are some in wheelchairs who would be sitting at home very, very lonesome. We call ourselves sisters. We look after each other. If someone is ill, we’re there to help out."
Though the March 21 celebration is a private event, the group is always looking for new princesses and countesses to add to its family.
"We try to encourage women to get out as much as we can," said Smart.
"Fun is the spice of life. Get out and enjoy it."
For more, visit http://members.shaw.ca/prairiechicks1 or email firstname.lastname@example.org