Guest Post: Big Names and Even Bigger Hats Set the Tone at This Year’s Hat Luncheon

Note: Forest Park Forever invited a young journalism student named Joe Weber to attend this year's Hat Luncheon as a special correspondent. We are pleased to share his post with you.  

As attendees sported styles inspired by everything from the Kentucky Derby to Dr. Seuss, the impending rain couldn’t deter the vibrant color and energy that unfolded at Forest Park Forever’s 25th Annual Leffingwell Award “Hat” Luncheon, held June 4, 2015, in Forest Park.

As Jasmine Huda, KMOV anchor and emcee for the event, put it, “I hope you didn’t get rained on — but I guess it doesn’t matter with these big hats.” 

Modeling an extravagant hat herself, Huda addressed over 1,000 guests gathered under white tents at the World’s Fair Pavilion. And while big names in St. Louis, including Mayor Francis Slay, were in attendance, the real attention grabbers circulated above eye-level.

Luncheon attendees certainly weren’t afraid to think outside the hatbox with their choices of headwear. Plastic airplanes with spinning propellers, peacock feathers on purple top hats and traditional Chinese fans were only a few of the many variations. 

But above the pastel sport coats, glasses of purple champagne and distinctive headgear, there was the real star of the luncheon: a waterfall. 

The Cascades, a 75-foot waterfall located between on a hillside between the Saint Louis Art Museum and the Probstein Golf Course, has been a Forest Park destination since 1937. But in recent years it’s been in need of essential maintenance and improvements. Donations raised at this year’s luncheon will help Forest Park Forever accelerate that needed work. 

KMOV news anchor Carol Daniel and community leader Linda Finerty co-chaired this year’s luncheon, leading the Women’s Committee of Forest Park Forever in their work planning the successful event.

“The Park is a living being,” Daniel said. “And like any living being, it’s always aging and needs repairs.”

The Women’s Committee of Forest Park Forever, which organized the first Hat Luncheon 25 years ago and continues to this day, has raised $6 million for the Park since its founding. 
The luncheon is an annual gesture of thanks to the many companies, organizations and individuals who give back to Forest Park, as well as an opportunity to gather support for a specific cause — in this year’s case, the Cascades.

“We admire the women who were co-chairs before us who built the legacy of this luncheon,” Daniel said. “I want to encourage all non-members to join Forest Park Forever. I promise you won’t regret it.”

After Daniel and Finerty thanked the crowd for their support, Huda began the day’s main attraction: The Stifel Hat Contest.

Extravagant contest winners marched proudly across the runway-style stage in front of the sold-out event, which raised $400,000 for Park restoration and maintenance. And despite being the single largest fundraiser for Forest Park, even Daniel admitted the real behind the event’s successful.

“I know, as a news anchor, the importance of raising money for this cause,” Daniel said. “And you know what? I love a good hat.”

Here’s a round-up of this year's contest winners:

  • Romantic: Marilyn Gooch, Andrea Topps, Ashley Parks
  • Whimsical: Marsha Schuman, Anacleta Steffen, Shonte' Moore
  • Vintage: Becky Ulses, Lee Riggs, Merle Freed
  • Fascinator: Valerie Kennedy, Chelsey Oliver, Beth Davis
  • Silver 25th Anniversary: Dianne Isbell-O'Brien, Diedre Gray, Cathy Dunkin
  • Best Male Hat: Everett Dietle
  • Best in Show: Sue McCollum
  • Best Table Theme: St. Louis Homes & Lifestyle