Rowan Literacy Council event has plenty of ‘Hat-i-tude’

Published 12:00 am Sunday, September 13, 2020

SALISBURY — A normal Kentucky Derby party involves mingling and sipping mint juleps to the sound of thundering hoofbeats. But during the year of COVID-19, nothing is normal.

The pandemic sent the Rowan County Literacy Council back to the drawing board to reimagine their Kentucky Derby with “Hat-i-tude” fundraiser after the Kentucky Derby itself was postponed from May to Sept. 5. Due to ongoing limitations on indoor gatherings, the literacy council decided to replace their in-person event with a virtual hat contest instead.

Literacy council board member and Isenberg Elementary Assistant Principal Davian Ellison was the driving force behind the revamped event, saying, “We really had to shift gears in a hurry. I am glad we were able to capture the essence of our original event while heightening awareness about what our organization does for our community and our need for volunteers and financial support. The lovely contestants really helped us and it was loads of fun. Hopefully, we can host a live event in the future.”

Contestants fired up the glue guns and unwound bolts of tulle in order to create some fun and fanciful hats. Users submitted photos by email and friends and family were encouraged to vote for their favorite hats on the literacy council’s website, Participation was free of charge.

Winners were announced on Derby Day and received gift baskets with Kentucky Derby-themed items, including books, gift certificates, gourmet items, and even mint julep fixings. Cate Doby won the fifth grade and under category, and Ella Lockhart and Sophie Chmiel clinched the sixth-eighth grade and ninth-12th categories respectively. In the adult competition, there were several traditional Derby-hat entries, as well as a few more daring confections.

When all the dust had settled, third place went to Sidney Logan Echevarria for a rose and butterfly fascinator, second to Samantha Haspel for her detailed reproduction of the Churchill Downs facade, and first place went to Allison Doby for her hat bedecked with fresh flowers and miniature race horses.

Many non-profits have been severely impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. Literacy council Executive Director K.C. Scott noted, “We’re incredibly grateful to each of our sponsors for being so flexible and supportive when we had to change the format from what was going to be an incredible gala event to a virtual format. Now we have the next 8 months to make Derby 2021 even better!”

The Rowan County Literacy Council provides one-on-one tutoring in reading and English. Programs are free of charge to individuals in the community. For more information on enrolling as a student or becoming a tutor, go to or call 704-840-3546.

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