Scholarship Pageant rebrands at Chamber request
By DAVID MORRIS
Pageant season is upon the city of Copperas Cove and on May 13, new royalty will be crowned to represent the community at the Five Hills Scholarship Pageant—formerly the Rabbit Fest Scholarship Pageant.
Applications for the annual scholarship pageant will be available for download starting Saturday from the city’s tourism department webpage. The pageant, which continues under the direction of Wendy Sledd, also has a new logo.
The transition from the Chamber of Commerce to the Parks and Recreation Department was first announced in October 2016 when Sledd shared with the city council that the Copperas Cove Chamber of Commerce informed Sledd the pageant could not continue under the chamber’s umbrella.
“The Rabbit Fest Royalty is welcome to continue their pageant at Rabbit Fest, but the Chamber can no longer provide free accounting services or liability insurance. That is the extent of the dissolution,” former Chamber of Commerce president Sean Corrigan wrote via email in August 2016. “Rabbit Fest belongs to the Chamber, for which the Chamber receives the profits. The pageant is a separate entity from the Chamber because the pageant receives the profits from their events. The Chamber has been acting as a sponsor for the pageants, but is not the owner of the pageants.”
The pageant is continuing, with its new name, under the city’s Parks and Recreation Department.
The latest request from the chamber, to change the name of the pageant, came from Chamber of Commerce board chair Tammy Rodriguez on March 10, who called for Sledd to remove the name from donation and sponsor request by June 1, 2017 as well as remove the name “Rabbit Fest” name completely by May 2018 prior to crowning new royalty.
“The name was copyrighted in 2016, the request was made to decrease confusion regarding the relationship of the Pageant Event and the Chamber,” Rodriguez told the Leader-Press. “Multiple conversations over the last year were had with the Pageant Leadership prior to the letter being sent out and the Chamber has no plans at this time of hosting a pageant.”
The recent request brings a financial loss to the pageant that totals thousands of dollars, with canopies, tablecloths, banners, sashes and crowns already ordered and paid for with the Rabbit Fest Pageant logo, said Sledd.
“I feel blindsided,” Sledd added. “I had not heard of this prior to receiving the letter at the City’s tourism department. We ordered multiple years’ crowns so that we can get the best rate and save the sponsorships so more money can go into scholarships for the royalty.”
To comply with the request from the Chamber of Commerce board, Sledd has rebranded the annual pageant that began with Rabbit Fest in 1981 to the Five Hills Scholarship Pageant, and will carry on the traditions she started with the Ambassadors program and keep the volunteer service requirements for members of the royalty to make a minimum of three events a quarter. Current royalty will have made more than 250 appearances since being crowned in May of 2016.
The Five Hills Scholarship Pageant has retained many of the sponsors that have supported the program over the past three years and are a key component in the awarding of more than $50,000 in prizes and scholarships.
Since restarting the pageant in 2014, Sledd has built the program that awards more than $50,000 in scholarships and prizes annually. In 2015, it was named one of the top three events by the Texas Festival and Events Association. Initially, more than 100 contestants packed into a double-header pageant at the Copperas Cove Civic Center. In its third year, the pageant outgrew the civic center facility and moved to the Lea Ledger auditorium in 2016.
Annually the royalty average more than 5,000 hours of community service and the program has produced dozens of gold Presidential Service Award recipients and six Incredible Kids for the central Texas region. During 2014, the royalty was named the City of Temple’s Volunteers of the Year for their work.
“We look forward to working in collaboration with Wendy Sledd and her strong passion for the pageant,” Parks Director Joe Brown told the Leader-Press in October. “We have no doubt that this will again make the program even better for the kiddos and families of our community.”
“This is more than just a beauty contest. If that is what it was all about I would be a part of this. My family has given back to this community for a long time and that is really what this pageant is about,” pageant sponsor Bill French, owner of Bill French Jewelers, said. “This is a great program to show the youth that it’s not always about yourself and is teaching them to be selfless adults. I am proud to be the crowns’ sponsor and will continue to help. It’s a beautiful thing.”
Making more than 200 apperances during their year-long reign, the royalty will work toward the Ambassador title, awarded to the member of the royalty that has the most community services hours. Previous Rabbit Fest Ambassadors include Kelsey Dane (2015) and Edith Natividad (2016).
“Had I not been in the pageant, I would not have done the extensive volunteer work that I did. It really helped me to discover my passion for helping other people and it helped me learn to get over the fear of public speaking,” Dane said.
Dane was selected as a Central Texas Incredible Kid in 2015 and emceed the CCISD State of the District event that same year and emceed the CCISD Convocation event this past August. Dane has been accepted to the University of Texas at Austin where she will study pre-pharmacy at the Natural Sciences College. She has a 4.38 GPA and is ranked 17 in her class of 511 seniors.
The pageant is open to boys 0-8 years and girls/women of all ages from 0-50+ years. Registration packets are available in the Copperas Cove Convention and Visitors Bureau office, located at 1206 W. Ave. B, where applications can be dropped off or mailed. Applications are accepted Monday-Friday from 8 a.m. – 7 p.m. Registration fees are due with the application.
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