First multicultural festival held at Ogletree Gap

By BRITTANY FHOLER 
Cove Leader-Press 

The rain held off in time for the Copperas Cove Five Hills Scholarship Pageant Royalty to host the inaugural Multicultural Festival at Ogletree Gap Park Saturday afternoon. 
The was the community service project of Ms. Five Hills Ashley Coombs and co-hosted by former Senior Miss Five Hills and Five Hills Ambassador Editha Natividad, and ran from noon to 6 p.m., featuring live entertainment and various food and retail vendors.
The event was free to the public, with proceeds from vendor fees going towards the non-profit Communities In Schools to be used for disadvantaged CCISD students to participate in extra-curricular activities. 
After expenses, the event raised $3,000 for CIS, according to Wendy Sledd, the volunteer pageant director for the Five Hills Scholarship Pageant. 
Coombs explained that after she had decided on her platform, she was approached by Sledd about partnering with Natividad to host a multicultural festival. 
“I had already decided what I wanted my service platform to be, and it was raising monies for scholarships for Communities in Schools, so I knew that what I needed to do needed to be something on a larger scale in order to pay for these scholarships,” Coombs said. 
Natividad said that she had been wanting to have a multicultural festival in town for years but the timing was never quite right. 
Coombs was in charge of finding vendors while Natividad organized and put together the different entertainment groups. 
Saturday’s event had 30 different vendors, including Mad Chow, an AfroFusion food vendor; Siala Vaifala Hawaiian Mocktails; Lowe’s Legs; Pacific Island Accessories; Pahoa Aloha Wear and Gifts; Aphrodite’s Oysters; Seki-A-Flava; JAK Creations; JenX; and Solar Art Designs. The Five Hills Pageant also had a booth, where they handed out fliers for upcoming events such as the Howl-O-Ween Puppy Pawlooza and the Krist Kindl Charity Pageant. Communities In Schools had a booth as well, with brochures and information on hand for those interested in their services. 
“Our focus is to assist students, at risk students, in being successful by using the resources around the community to get them to graduate and move onto happy lives,” said Starelett Williams, Communities in Schools Site Director at J.L Williams/ Lovett Ledger Elementary School. 
CIS is involved at each school level, from elementary grades up to high school, with each level focusing on different tasks, said Stacy Bradley, the Site Director at Copperas Cove Junior High School.
“Mostly at the junior high level, what I’m focusing on is getting them in, getting those supplies, making sure they can get through the day, and then for the ones who need more help, pull them in, do some mentorship and things like that,” Bradley said. 
For the high school level, the focus is on helping students prepare for life after high school, with college prep and life skills, said Amorin Nunez, who is based at Copperas Cove High School. 
CIS gets its funding from United Way, various federal grants and through the help of the community, so the funds raised through the Multicultural Festival will be a huge help, Bradley said. 
“We couldn’t do what we do unless it was for the partnership of the community, with the schools, the families themselves, and so we’re very grateful and appreciative of the event that they’re putting on for us because it’s going to go a long ways for the kids,” Williams said. 
The funds raised Saturday will be geared towards helping students participate in extracurricular activities, such as gymnastics or other clubs. 
Entertainment groups featured Saturday included the Central Texas Belly Dance Association, the Asrirang Korean Culture Group, Te Jas Winds, Poly Mic Dance Group, Siva Ori Polynesia dance group which also featured fire dancing, the traditional Hawaiian dance group Aloha Pomaika’I, Songhai Bamboo Roots, Ka Pa’awai O Manaukea Hula Troup, Grupo Folklorico Estrellas de Panama, Tahitian Fitness, Micronesian Dance Group Baila Pacifica Entertainment, and vocalist Alba Garcia. 
“There’s a small variety this year for our first year,” Coombs said. “We’re hoping to expand over the next couple of years.”
Coombs attributed the large turnout of people at the festival to the fact that Copperas Cove has never had a multicultural festival before and to the fact that the event was free admission. 
“That is something that’s really big for Copperas Cove,” Coombs said. “You know, a lot of our events aren’t free to the public. We really, really wanted to make it something that everybody could attend, simply because of what this is for, you know. Like I said, we are raising money for disadvantaged youth, and so I’d like for them to be able to come and experience this as well.”
Diane Dunn, who attended the event with her Jack Russell Terrier, Doni, said she thought the event was great and should be held every year. 
“You know, there’s so many cultures in Copperas Cove and I don’t know that everybody’s aware of how many there are,” Dunn said. “And to have everybody with their food and the dances and their activities, it’s really cool to point out the diversity that there is in Cove.”

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