Ella Turner of Hobbs models her hat for the judges at the New Mexico Association of Colored Women’s Clubs annual convention and hat parade Saturday at St. John’s Baptist Church. (CNJ staff photo: Andy DeLisle)
By Kevin Wilson: CNJ staff writer
As she did for those before and after Ruth Ballou hit the runway, emcee Barbara Singleton described the hat Ballou was modeling for the partisan crowd.
“She’s wearing a nice hat, a nice satin hat,” Singleton said, before Ballou corrected her.
“It’s an old hat,” Ballou said, and the crowd responded with laughter.
Singleton, Ballou and others were taking part in an annual tradition called the hat parade, a centerpiece event of the New Mexico Association of Colored Women’s Clubs state conference, held this weekend at St. John’s Baptist Church.
The conference features the state’s only three clubs of the NMACWC — Clovis’ Tan Terrific, Hobbs’ Lovely Ladies and Albuquerque’s Eureka Matrons — with the location shifting between each club’s respective cities.
Each group works within its community on raising funds to provide scholarships and community service, Tan Terrific President Phyllis Salguero said. The groups raise money through small functions, and also through endeavors such as a crafts table at the conference with items for sale, including cloth-covered diaries and purses made from Capri-Sun juice packages.
Midway through Saturday, Salguero said, the group had raised nearly $4,000 and still had its banquet later that evening to raise funds.
For the afternoon, though, the hats and their models were on display.
The competitors showed off their hats with the hope of winning the bragging rights in five categories. Each hat is graded on a 100-point scale, with 20 points each for:
• Hat/outfit coordination.
The top hat in each category receives a prize, and the hat with the most points receives an award for overall excellence.
In this case, entrants are happy to have the ugliest hat, and they don’t mind a scoring system that makes a genuinely ugly hat more valuable than a somewhat cute hat.
“It’s kind of funny, isn’t it?” Salguero said.
The hats were judged by people within the community who do not belong to any of the groups.
Much laughter was shared by those in the room, with some playful humor directed at Helen Miles. Most competitors stopped after modeling two hats, while Miles showed off seven. By the time she presented hat No. 6, Singleton let her cut through the center of the room instead of walking around every table to model the hat.
Miles said modeling so many hats was fun and reminiscent.
“We used to wear some of these hats,” Miles said. “I remember when I was a young lady, I wore these pillbox hats.”
Miles ended up winning three categories — originality, ugliest and overall — and also got a side item of confusion.
“They didn’t tell me what (hat) won (ugliest),” said Miles, who created one hat and bought six others at an antique store. “I had several ugly ones on.”