Annual Rabbit Fest draws thousands
By BRITTANY FHOLER
Thousands came out to have fun as the weather cooperated for three of the four days of the 39th annual Rabbit Fest hosted by the Copperas Cove Chamber of Commerce at the City Park this weekend.
The family friendly event opened at 4 p.m. on Thursday and ran until midnight. Thursday was Appreciation Night, with military, civil service, teachers and students getting in free with their ID. Another special for Thursday evening was that Crabtree Amusements carnival ride wristbands were $10 off, making the all you can ride wristbands $20 instead of $30.
The opening ceremony held at 5:30 p.m. featured a proclamation from Mayor Pro Tem Dan Yancey and a ceremony recognizing several Vietnam War veterans and their families with the Star Group-Veterans Helping Veterans. Mayor elect Bradi Diaz rang the ceremonial bell with assistance from Fester, the Rabbit Fest Mascot.
Soon after, members of the Five Hills Scholarship Pageant Royalty introduced themselves and their platforms of service.
Thursday also featured Amateur Night entertainment, with several singers and musicians signed up, including Jayme Sigler, Rocky Pickett, Rowan Pratt, Jeff Corrigan and Analicia Jade.
Self Defense America and CCHS dance group Pacific Rim each performed Thursday evening as well.
Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Alicia Menard was excited at the number of people who came out on Thursday. After 5 p.m., cars lined Ave B from in front of City Park all the way back towards 1st St and Main St. as people waited to gain entry to Rabbit Fest.
“I’m definitely excited to see a line out there for Thursday night, especially with everything going on,” Menard said. “It is the end of the school year, so to see this line out there on a Thursday, that’s pretty awesome.”
On Friday, the festival again opened at 4 p.m. and ran until midnight, with live entertainment from 5:30 p.m. until 10 p.m., featuring the Elite Divaz and Gentz of CTX, Society for Creative Anachronism, CCHS Copperettes, GymKix and Centex Belly Dancers. The Gordon Collier Band performed at 8 p.m.
On Saturday morning, the annual Rabbit Fest parade kicked off the event at 10 a.m. and the gates at the park opened at 10 a.m. as well.
The parade, with more than 30 entries, began at the Copperas Cove High School north side parking lot and traveled down Ave D, past the downtown area and finished at the Cove Terrace Shopping Center. Judges for the parade include Chamber of Commerce Chair Jennifer Cotter, Ingrid Kiefer of Domino’s Pizza, J.C. Stubbs from Edward Jones and Copperas Cove City Councilmember Joann Courtland and the city’s Public Information Officer Kevin Keller.
There was a shower here and there throughout the morning but the parade still continued. A severe thunderstorm brought a deluge of rain, lightning and thunder to Copperas Cove and surrounding areas in the afternoon, but the skies cleared up and the sun came out in the late afternoon, early evening, leaving behind only muddy grounds for festival goers.
Free children’s activities on Saturday included an onion ring and French fry toss by Whataburger, balloon twisting by Balloons R Us, Pictures with Fester, the Rabbit Fest mascot, Raising Cane’s Spin the Wheel, pictures with Sammy the Sea Otter and a Bunny Hop Race hosted by the Five Hills Royalty.
Other entertainment on Saturday included performances from Ballet Folklorico Del Centro De Tejas, the Society for Creative Anachronism, PolyMic Dancers, Sparklettes House of Dance, Dazzlin Divas, the 1st Cav Jazz Band, Rising Stars 3Lite, Temple VA Band, Refit and country music artist Blake Crenshaw, from Waco.
Nashville-based country music artist Luke Pell, who also appeared on The Bachelorette, took the stage at Fester’s Stage at 8 p.m. and performed for a crowd of young and old residents.
Menard said that the appearances by Gordon Collier Band and Luke Pell were part of an effort to bring more well-known entertainers back to Rabbit Fest, as had been done in years past. This is something the Chamber would like to build upon as they start generating more revenue, she added.
“We’re just going to continue building and adding more events,” Menard said. “We already have several planned for next year. We’re involving some other community organizations to help facilitate those so we can just really have this park exploding with things to do.”
The festival continued for a strong finish on Sunday, opening at noon and running past 5 p.m., with many attendees riding to their heart’s desire while vendors on the other side of the stream closed up shop. Sunday’s entertainment lineup included a Refit demonstration and performances from local bands such as Trainwreck Sunday, Kingdom Grind and One Step Closer.
Throughout the weekend, pony rides were available for $5 cash.
New this year was a wine and beer “garden”, set up near Fester’s Stage, with Unwind!, FUBAR and more offering wine and beer and other cocktails.
“Our goal here is to just you know, promote Copperas Cove, bring visitors to the community to definitely spend their money here at the festival, with local businesses within Copperas Cove and just really impact our hotel/motels, our local businesses and you know, promote Copperas Cove,” Menard said. “Bring people here so they can see what we have to offer, in addition to having something for our local community to do during this weekend.”
Sponsors of the 39th annual Rabbit Fest include HEB Plus!, Central Texas News Now 25, Clear Creek Meadows, Raising Cane’s, Whataburger, the Copperas Cove Leader-Press, Walmart, Chick-fil-A, MyKiss 103.1 FM, US 105, First Texas Bank, Cloud Real Estate, Copperas Cove Nursing and Rehabilitation Center, Lions Club and National United Bank.