The tradition of an Easter Parade began in Charleston, South Carolina in the 1890's. It took place at Hampton Park, just outside the City, and coincided with Horse Races held around the perimeter of The Park. It would take @100 years before The Hat Ladies resurrected the tradition, this time in the heart of the City. However, we do not "parade" in Charleston; we proudly "Promenade." Our stylish brigade of volunteers of all ages who genuinely love hats of all colors represent the best of fashion and compassion all year long. At Easter time, we hold our hats a bit higher as we stroll with our families in our finest from head to toe to the delight of locals and tourists alike.
Our first Promenade was held Easter Saturday 2002. We were given a permit to be "increased pedestrian traffic," i.e. we had to stay on the sidewalk and obey all traffic signals. After exiting Washington Park (near The Four Corners of Law) and beginning our stroll, the Chief of Police blew his whistle, held out his hand, and shouted, "Halt!" Heart pounding, our Top Hat fumbled for our permit as she heard him say, "This procession is too good to be on the sidewalk. We are stopping all traffic for you." It was as if there were a snowstorm and suddenly we could walk down the middle of a busy street, never open to pedestrians. It was truly an out of body experience as we waved to the crowds on both sides of Broad Street all the way down our route. The newspapers and media also embraced us, describing us "an elegant mob."
We subsequently "cleaned up our lines" and have enjoyed adding to the Easter festivities, traditions, and elegance of our Holy City ever since. Our route changed over the years until we found the best avenue was Broad Street, between East Bay and Meeting. It is never "old hat" to experience this thrill each year and share our "HaTpy Easter" greeting with others
The past few years, however, have been anything BUT "old hat." First the COVID Pandemic caused a complete shutdown of Charleston like everywhere else. Even when life, as we knew it, settled into its "new normal," a trend began tHAT The Hat Ladies could not over come: Mentally ill people started driving their cars into people innocently parading, maiming, and killing them.
While not all "parades" in Charleston were cancelled, the liability for a private "parade" like ours became prohibitive. If anything or anyone were injured during The Hat Ladies' Easter Promenade, I would be personally responsible. Parades such as Charleston's December Holiday Parade and The Knight's of Columbus St. Patricks Day could continue, because their coffers could handle damage to people or things. The Hat Ladies are grateful those Organizations invite us to participate.
Finally we are grateful to have STILL found a way to honor the hat wearing traditions of the season and the Easter Holiday they represent in a safe and meaningful way. We will always include all photos from The Hat Ladies Promenade 2019 to show how it "used to be."
CLICK ON THE FOLLOWING:
The Hat Ladies Easter Promenade 2023 (the new normal)
The Hat Ladies Easter Promenade 2019 (the way it used to be)
Easter Promenade 2023