Thousands of hours of service and hundreds of miles traveled, the Copperas Cove Rabbit Fest royalty have impacted the community with multiple service projects they created and by contributing to others in 2016.

The pageant, under the direction of volunteer director Wendy Sledd, experienced major changes in 2016 including moving under the umbrella of the city’s Parks and Recreation Department.

With 157 contestants in 2016, the pageant, which is now the largest festival pageant in the state, moved to Lea Ledger Auditorium with a professionally choreographed opening number and a full-color program book.

The pageant increased the amount of college scholarships it awarded by more than 500 percent.

“The pageant is extremely fortunate to not only have the support of the city but also the support of the business community providing the prizes and scholarship money that is awarded,” Sledd said. “In turn, our titleholders work in the community nearly every single weekend, making the most of the opportunity they have been given.”

The service to the community continues to grow with titleholders creating and hosting major community projects through their platforms of service.

Copperas Cove Rabbit Fest Ambassador 2016 Edith Natividad hosted the first Souper Bowl of Caring, a bowling tournament and food drive, to benefit My Brother’s House. The event raised 800 pounds of food.

The second annual event is scheduled for Feb. 4.

Natividad also erected a Blessing Box in front of the Copperas Cove Soup Kitchen, which provides food when the facility is closed.

Miss Rabbit Fest 2016 Karagan Mayberry rounded up more than 100 volunteers to serve and entertain donors during Copperas Cove Independent School District’s annual three-day Stuff the Bus event and raised more than $27,000 in school supplies.

Teen Miss Rabbit Fest 2015 Destiny Branch initiated the activity last year.

Junior Miss Rabbit Fest 2016 Kaydence Weary headed up the second annual Howl-O-Ween Puppy Pawlooza, raising more than $6,000 in donations for the Animal Control Facility.

The event was started last year by Pre-Teen Miss Rabbit Fest 2015 Camryn Brown.

Young Miss Rabbit Fest 2016 Kayla West hosted the second annual Krist Kindl Markt Charity Pageant. The pageant raised $1,600 for mitochondrial disease awareness. The pageant was resurrected last year by Young Miss Rabbit Fest 2015 Carleigh Ross.

Teen Miss Rabbit Fest 2016 Kamryn Mayberry partnered with Bearables to host a bear-stuffing party to raise $400 for child abuse prevention.

The royalty partner with McDonald’s Restaurant on April 6 for a child abuse awareness event for the second consecutive year.

Tiny Miss Rabbit Fest 2016 Eliana Cortez partnered with Sonic Drive-In at Clear Creek Road for a book drive for toddlers.

Tots Helping Tots collected more than 300 books for the Mae Stevens Early Learning Academy.

Miniature Mister Rabbit Fest 2016 Kyrian Jackson collects pop-tabs to benefit the Ronald McDonald House.

Junior Miss Rabbit Fest 2015 Gabriella Ortiz began the project last year and collected more than 25,000 tabs to help families of sick children.

Pre-Teen Miss Rabbit Fest 2016 Emma Rose Gill partnered with Copperas Cove Independent School District, Bearables, Moose Lodge/Women of the Moose/Moose Riders to host a party for 100 exceptional needs children.

Little Mister Rabbit Fest 2016 Raidyn Atkinson heads up his community service project, Valentines for Veterans, in February.

Ms. Rabbit Fest 2016 Trisha Stutz has planned an event next month to benefit soldiers with post-traumatic stress disorder and Senior Ms. Rabbit Fest 2016 Robin Schaefnocker continues her work to find a cure for diabetes Type 1.

Dawn Hale, Weary’s grandmother, said they are grateful for this experience for Weary as it will help her throughout her lifetime.

“Over the last six months, there have been tons of events on her appearance schedule, and to date, she has volunteered over 250 hours. For being only 9 years old, that is a huge accomplishment,” Hale said. “This reign is only for one year, and we want her to get the best experience possible out of these 12 months.”

In royalty sightings this week, the royalty will represent the city and the festival Saturday at the Miss Austin Pageant.

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