Free sun hats June 19 in Capitola

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By Jondi Gumz

CAPITOLA >> For six years, hatmakers across America have set aside one day in the summer to give away wide-brimmed hats to protect people outdoors from overexposure to the sun. It’s been done in New York, Los Angeles and Boston, and this month, there will be a hat giveaway in Capitola Village.

The event is coming to Santa Cruz County because of participation by Head’n Home Hats, parent company of American Hat Makers, founded in 1978 by Gary Watrous in Freedom, and Dorfman Pacific, a hatmaker based in Stockton.

For Watrous, hat making is a family enterprise involving his wife Merry-Lee, brother Lee, sister Ronia, son Garth and daughter Heather.

The designs are Western, some with flowers and feathers, and others in Ashbury and Steampunk style, with the lightweight SolAir style designed for summer. Prices start at $65, with the most exotic, such as the “Roadkill Topper” fetching $495.

Garth, a San Diego State University graduate now vice president of Head’n Home, recently was named to the board of The Headwear Association, a trade group that promotes hats worldwide.

His growth plan doubled American Hat Makers’ business twice over the past five years, impressive given the economic roller coaster.

“I think we are uniquely positioned to help bring exposure to the beautiful American made hats we and other manufacturers make,” he said.

The “Hat Day in the Sun” was started in response to the growing rate of melanoma, skin cancer largely caused by sun overexposure. The American Cancer Society’s estimates about 76,000 new cases of melanomas a year will be diagnosed, and about 9,700 deaths are reported.

“Beach communities are an obvious place to educate people about the dangers of overexposure to the sun,” said Hannah Watrous, who is married to Garth and is vice president of marketing and branding at Head’n Home Hats.


WHAT: 300 sun-protection hats to be given away

WHERE: Esplanade Park, Capitola Village.

WHEN: 1 p.m. June 19

SPONSORED BY: Head’n Home Hats, of Freedom, and Dorfman Pacific, of Stockton.

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