Rabbit Fest Royalty prepping for second ride in annual parade
By LYNETTE SOWELL
Long before the 35th Rabbit Fest parade begins its procession along Avenue D tomorrow morning, volunteers are preparing one special float.
With the help of those volunteers, the Rabbit Fest royalty will ride yet again in the parade, a first for the festival. That’s twice in two years.
Usually, past pageant winners had the chance to participate in the Rabbit Fest parade only once, as the pageant was typically held the weekend before the festival and the newly crowned royalty rode on the float during the festival the following weekend.
This year’s royalty who will surrender their crowns to their successors tomorrow are preparing for the parade, and are also looking back on the past year. All consider the chance to participate not once, but twice, an honor.
“Hadlie is very excited to get to participate in the parade again. I will say I had no idea how amazing this organization was. Hadlie started this journey a shy and timid three year old. The Rabbit Fest Pageant and Wendy have helped my daughter step outside of her comfort zone and do for others selflessly,” said Jesenika Perry, the mother of Wee Little Miss Rabbit Fest Hadlie Perry. “Thank you, Copperas Cove, for bringing back the Rabbit Fest Pageant.”
Addison Young, Little Miss Rabbit Fest, shared her thoughts about riding again.
“Getting to ride in the parade for a second time is exciting, because it gives me a chance to spend time with all the other Rabbit Fest royalty, before our year together is done.”
Morgan Young, Addison’s mother, has been along for the busy ride her daughter has been on over the past year.
“Getting to see Addison learn and grow from the experiences she has been able to be a part of, over this past year, has made me realize how independent, perseverant, and caring she truly is. She loves getting the chance to make our community a better place and works hard to do so, all while looking fabulous and getting treated like a queen,” Morgan said.
For Natalie Perez, Pre-Teen Miss Rabbit Fest, her experience as part of the royalty has hit close to home.
“I got to help disabled veterans like my dad and got to spend a lot of time with my mom because she was with me almost every weekend. It was very exciting all the floats and parades, but mostly I got to help people,” Perez said. “I did little things like paint nails and bigger things like be the Relay for Life Team Captain. There was recognition from my school, the Incredible Kids association and even the President Barack Obama. For all the work we did we each received volunteer medals from him.”
Perez received gold, silver, and bronze awards for her efforts.
Teen Miss Rabbit Fest Kelseigh Fife called her year an “amazing journey,” and that serving throughout the community has shown her the importance of giving back to a town that has continuously served her.
“This whole experience has been so life changing, it has reignited my desire to serve and to make where I live a better place,” Fife said. “I was so thankful to be able to participate in the parade the first time, getting to do it a second time is such an honor. I can’t wait to see what great things the next kings and queens do.”
Kelsey Dane doesn’t take lightly the opportunity to ride in the parade twice.
“Having the chance to ride in the Rabbit Fest parade not just once but twice has been a great honor. I have been so blessed to be able to represent the City of Copperas Cove as a member of Rabbit Fest royalty. Riding in the parade twice is the perfect ending to my chapter as Young Miss Rabbit Fest,” Dane said. “The past year has opened my eyes to new experiences, and helped me grow as a student, citizen and leader. I have learned a lot about myself and my abilities. The opportunity to volunteer and contribute has taught me valuable skills that will benefit my future endeavors. All of the activities I participated in brought me closer to my community and permitted me to work alongside and form bonds with wonderful people. I am so thankful to my family and also pageant director Wendy Sledd for their dedication of time and support that made my reign successful.”
Sledd already has words of thanks for those making this year’s float possible, while she and co-director Azeita Taylor finish final preparations for tomorrow’s big day.
“We are grateful to Marc Payne for his continued support in building the components again for this year’s float, to Roger Heinze for loaning us the trailer and to Jean Shine for loaning us the insert as we piecemeal the float together every year,” said the pageant coordinator Wendy Sledd. “It is our ultimate goal to return the tradition of having a professional float for the royalty to represent Rabbit Fest throughout the region like our neighbors in Gatesville, Lampasas and surrounding communities do with their festivals and events.”
Sledd has high hopes for the future, where the pageant and Rabbit Fest are concerned, as being a draw to the community.
“It all comes down to community pride and promoting Rabbit Fest as the largest tourism event in Copperas Cove and Coryell County. Awareness that Rabbit Fest occurs in Copperas Cove means more visitors buying gas here, eating at our restaurants and boosting our sales tax dollars.”