A peach of a hat?
Milliner will highlight fruit market festival

By Val Van Meter
The Winchester Star

MIDDLETOWN ó The annual Peach Festival at Richardís Fruit Market, will feature . . . hats.

Yes, said Eddie Richard, they go together. "Think a summerís day, beautiful ladies, and beautiful hats."

Thatís what youíll see from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday at the market at 6410 Middle Road.

To the traditional peach pies, peach ice cream, and peach smoothies of the fruit-themed festival, Richard is adding the craft of hat-making, with help from Adrianne Bennett.

Bennett, a special-education teacher from Haymarket, has been making custom hats for five years.

Adrienne Bennett, a special-education teacher from Haymarket, has been making custom hats for five years. She will show her collection at Richardís Fruit Market Peach Festival from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday at the market at 6410 Middle Road. (Photo provided by Adrianne Bennett)

She sells her AB Hats at craft markets around Northern Virginia.

Bennett agreed to attend the Peach Festival because she wants to contact other people who enjoy making hats.

She would like to start a Millinery Guild in the state. While she knows many hatters scattered across the country, few seem to be in Virginia.

Bennett would like to spread the message that "sharing the wealth is a good thing."

Getting hatters together wonít spoil their individuality in making hats, Bennett insisted. "If you give the same materials to five different people, they wouldnít all come up with the same hat."

Also, she said, a hatter "blossoms" and "evolves as an artist."

In addition, the festival will be a way to show that "making hats is fun."

Bennett actually backed into her craft. When she was considering what sheíd like to do in the future, after retirement, she became interested in genealogy and living-history presentations.

Looking for a "persona" to take on, Bennett selected a time frame, 1910, and began making a tea dress costume.

Finding a matching hat proved difficult, so Bennett decided to do-it-herself.

"If I can make a dress, I can make a hat," she told herself. She took her first millinery class at a local shop and then another in North Carolina.

She found that her chapeaux fit better than custom-made hats, and for a good reason.

"Hat molds are made round," she said, but most heads are oval-shaped. And womenís factory-made hats are all one size.

"We donít have single-size heads," Bennett said, "so most hats are too big or too tight."

Attending 20 craft festivals a year, from April to November, Bennett said she sees hats tied to age groups.

"Women in their late 20 and early 30s, are definitely wearing hats," she said. And women in their late 50s and older grew up wearing hats to church and social gatherings.

Itís the age group in between that "has no idea how to wear a hat," Bennett said. When one of them strays into her booth, Bennett usually offers to let her "play dress-up" ó putting the potential customer at ease about trying on hats.

At the local festival, "You can order a custom hat to match your favorite outfit," Richard suggested.

Everyone is invited to wear his or her most impressive hat to the event, and live music is scheduled on the grounds from 2 to 4 p.m.

Other celebrations are coming up at the market. Richard has scheduled a clam and oyster bake and chicken barbecue from 4 to 6:30 p.m. Sept. 22, (reservations are necessary) and an apple festival Oct. 20-21. The annual gourd festival is set for Nov. 3-4. Call 869-1455.