COPPERAS COVE — You had better have some tissues handy if you mention to Trisha Stutz or Kayla West that they will soon be crowning their successors on May 13.

The dynamic mother-daughter duo hold the titles of Ms. Copperas Cove Rabbit Fest and Young Miss Copperas Cove Rabbit Fest, and it has been a whirlwind of a year for them both, having made more than 200 appearances each and traveling hundreds of miles across the state. Tears fill their eyes at the prospect of their yearlong reigns coming to an end. This year has definitely brought the pair closer.

“I was so proud as I watched Kayla get crowned and, moments later when I was crowned, I was so excited that we both won,” Stutz said. “It has brought us so much closer. We get to share the fun times and the hard work. We have more time to talk on the way to events. We both get to be part of something so amazing and spend a lot of time together.”

“It was super exciting to know that we would get to share our memories together now that we won together,” West said. “It has made our relationship stronger, because we both know the struggle of our feet hurting from wearing heels, but it’s been great getting to be together.”

As a military spouse, Stutz, who is married to Sgt. Timothy Stutz of the 1st Cavalry Division, entered her two daughters into the pageant to expose them to something different and involve them into their new surroundings. She had to sign herself up for the pageant when her daughter challenged her to do the same.

After both captured their crowns, life changed in the household.

“It means twice the dresses and shoes,” Timothy Stutz said. “And when they are getting ready, I will have to get ready downstairs because they are using both bathrooms upstairs to fix their hair and put on makeup. I usually just stand back while they get ready and then give them hugs as they run out the door every Saturday morning.”

The two ladies have worked tirelessly for their respective charities this year. Stutz promoted post-traumatic stress disorder awareness, speaking to multiple civic clubs and hosting a Sweetheart Etiquette Tea with all money going to charity for peer-to-peer counseling for soldiers with PTSD.

“Not only did I get to have fun, but I also got to raise money to help our soldiers,” Stutz said.

West, who attends Killeen High School and also works part-time, used her year to raise money for mitochondrial disease, which affects the lives of two of her cousins who are not expected to live past the age of 15. West planned a charity pageant to raise money for Mito Action.

“My fondest memory of this year would have to be the success of the Krist Kindl Pageant to help battle mitochondrial disease,” West said. “I wish I could do it forever, because not only was it helping to find a cure, but it was so much fun.”

As the two titleholders prepare to relinquish their crowns, they look back on a year that only happens once in a lifetime.

“I’m going to miss all of it,” 16-year-old West said. “The community service with my royalty family who are now my best friends that I have made. I am going to miss being busy with appearances every weekend and being looked at as a princess, and I am going to miss having a wonderful pageant director who always helps make sure everything goes perfectly for me.”

“I will miss my royal family, working together and putting on my crown and banner and making a difference,” Stutz said. “It has truly been an amazing experience that we have been blessed with.”

The application period for the Five Hills Scholarship Pageant, formerly the Rabbit Fest Pageant, is officially open until May 1. Applications can be downloaded at http://www.copperascovetx.gov/parks/five_hills_pageant/.

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