Ten area ladies, each one wearing a red or pink hat, gathered this week to mark the fifteenth anniversary of the Plum Sassy Red Hats group in Neosho.

The Plum Sassy ladies have been meeting since October 2003. They're part of The Red Hat Society, a group for women founded in 1998 in the U.S as a playgroup for women that connects like-minded women, encourages new friends and enriches lives through the power of fun and friendship.

"We are like children," Rose Heaser, Plum Sassy leader, said. "We have fun. Most of us have raised families and cared for others. It's our turn to enjoy life."

Red Hatters are over age 50 and wear red hats with purple clothing to meetings, which are known as gatherings. Pink Hatters are under 50. They wear pink hats and lavender clothes. The group has two Pink Hatters and a number of Red Hatters. The sole rule is to have fun and the kazoo is the Red Hats official musical instrument. Each member also adopts a fun nickname when they join.

The 1st Plum Sassy gathering took place at Precious Moments, Carthage, with 8 charter members. By the next month, the group had grown to 20. The charter members originally called the group "Sophisto Hats" but after a shopping trip following the first gathering, members decided the name was too straight laced and decided to use the runner-up name, Plum Sassy.

In addition to monthly gatherings, the Plum Sassy ladies also enjoy events at Branson, Kansas City, Joplin Little Theatre, and some Caribbean cruises. Activities have included belly dancing lessons, a variety of hat contests, scavenger hunts, watermelon seed spitting contests and stomping grapes.

One year, then Mayor of Neosho Howard Birdsong issued a proclamation to designate a Red Hat Day in Neosho.

The group currently has 20 members. Some members have passed away and others are now honorary members due to moving out of the area or living in a care facility. Current Plum Sassies come not only from Neosho but from Anderson, Joplin, Seneca, Goodman, Lanagan, and Gravette, Arkansas.

"She's the reason we're all still together," Plum Sassy member Nancy Green said of Heaser. "She's kept us together."

In addition to wearing red hats, sometimes the ladies also wear red wax lips just for fun.

Nationwide, the Red Hat Society has about 50,000 members and more around the world in over 30 different counties.

For more information about Neosho's Plum Sassy ladies, contact Rose Heaser at 417-592-2106.