5 Reasons Forest Park Forever's Hat Luncheon is the Place to be this June

Forest Park Forever holds its 29th annual Hat Luncheon fundraiser on June 6 in the historic World’s Fair Pavilion. Presented by the Women’s Committee of Forest Park Forever and co-chairs Zundra Bryant and Penny Pennington, the event’s proceeds will benefit the maintenance and restoration of Forest Park, the jewel of St. Louis.

For nearly 30 years St. Louisans have been topping off their “Sunday best” with elegant hats and headdresses and participating in the hat competition to support Forest Park and keep it thriving for the community. The Hat Luncheon was popularized as a glamorous philanthropic event in 1983 by the Central Park Conservancy in New York. Forest Park Forever has cultivated the occasion and created a St. Louis tradition that’s become the biggest fundraiser for the Park.

“It’s an event like no other in St. Louis,” said Forest Park Forever Board Member and longtime attendee and sponsor Paul Higgins, whose employer, Stifel, is also the sponsor of the Hat Contest. “The World’s Fair Pavilion setting is tremendous, and with all the hats, it’s sort of like ‘Forest Park meets Derby Day.’”  

If you’re new to St. Louis, or have never participated in the tradition, check out five reasons why you should attend the Forest Park Forever Hat Luncheon.

1. Meet Great People

The Hat Luncheon is a fantastic opportunity to meet and mingle with fellow St. Louisans. As one of the most well-attended social affairs of the year and “the biggest women's event in St. Louis,” according to Patty Krosch , a founding Women’s Committee member, it attracts people from all over the region who love and support Forest Park.

“The Hat Luncheon is also one of the most diverse events in St. Louis,” added Forest Park Forever Board member Diedre Gray, who, along with her husband Mike, is a past sponsor and attendee of the Hat Luncheon. “Even if you can’t get away for a full day, come and spend a few hours, you won’t be sorry! Over the past few years, the ‘hat game’ has really gotten strong too. They are the perfect icebreaker, because you talk to anyone and everyone about their hat.” 

2. Experience the Creativity of the St. Louis Region

The Stifel Hat Contest, which has several categories, brings out the inventive genius among competitors. Participants don original designs and display them throughout the event vying for the top prize. Dianne Isbell, who has attended the event for eight years designs one-of-a-kind hats that have won the competition in several categories. “I’ve had best of hat one year, I’ve had haute couture and fascinator,” she said. The Hat Luncheon offers a chance to witness art in motion from some of St. Louis’ most creative residents. “Just imagine,” Isbell added, “1,100 attendees all wearing hats of all different kinds. It’s just phenomenal, all for a worthy cause.”

3. Enjoy the Beauty of Forest Park

The historic World’s Fair Pavilion is right in the center of Forest Park sitting on top of Government Hill overlooking the Post-Dispatch Lake. After the event, you can walk off the delicious lunch and pop over to any of the Park’s amazing attractions including the Boathouse in Forest Park, the Saint Louis Art Museum, Saint Louis Zoo, Saint Louis Science Center and Missouri History Museum. Or explore the Park on your own using this online map to help you find your way around the 1,300 acres.

4. Have Fun

Simply put, the Forest Park Forever Hat Luncheon is a lot of fun! You get an afternoon of authentic fashion, interesting people and delicious food, all surrounded by the beauty of Forest Park. “I love the Hat Luncheon!” said Carolyn Farrell, a consistent supporter of the Hat Luncheon over the years and a former co-chair and long-time member of the Women’s Committee. "My favorite part is perusing the hats that others are wearing before we sit down for lunch. Hats make the day very festive, and the final parade of winners is the highlight.”

5. Support Forest Park

The Hat Luncheon is Forest Park’s largest fundraiser of the year. Proceeds not only go toward maintaining the Park and its ecosystem, but also its educational programs that engage and inform the St. Louis community about nature. “Forest Park is a valuable and historic asset for our city and the money raised is needed and well spent,” Farrell continued. "Everyone loves Forest Park, and people have fond memories of special moments in their lives taking place there.” By attending the Hat Luncheon, you will support Forest Park’s continued efforts to be an incredible resource and inclusive space that enriches the region.

As a postscript, we suggest you check out these three tips from Kwofe Coleman, Managing Director of The Muny and a past Hat Contest judge:  

  • Prepare to be amazed by the creativity of the hats

  • Dress to impress

  • Keep your head on a swivel, so you don’t miss a thing!

So what are you waiting for? The Forest Park Forever 29th annual Hat Luncheon is June 6 at 11:15 a.m., get your tickets before they are sold out.

Wendy Todd