COPPERAS COVE — Excited spectators were pouring into Copperas Cove by 9 a.m. Saturday for the 34th annual Rabbit Fest and parade. During the four-day event, nearly 50,000 people are expected to visit the town.

Families and friends were setting up pseudo-picnic sites under awnings, overhangs, trees and even the hatchbacks of their SUV’s all along Avenue D to shield themselves from the sun while they watched the parade.

Cove residents and proud grandparents Mike and Nancy Bachie viewed the morning’s events from their lawn chairs while their grandchildren and soon-to-be son-in-law sat under the hatch of their vehicle.

“We’ve been here since 1985 and we’ve come every year,” Mike Bachie said. “It gives us something different to do with the family and lets us get out of the house.”

Patrick, their 4-year-old grandson, looked forward to finally being able to try some of the “big-kid rides,” while their teenage granddaughter, Haleigh, was excited to see the “Snake Lady,” which is an old-carnival-styled oddity show.

But Mike Bachie’s favorite part of the day’s events are the Philly cheese steaks waiting for him at Cove City Park while Nancy Bachie looks forward to the funnel cakes. Both are carnival mainstays.

But as one event coordinator mentioned, there’s more than the usual at this year’s Rabbit Fest.

“Every year we attempt to bring something new to the event — whether it’s a new type of food or a new vendor booth, we always try to add from last year,” said Betty Price, Copperas Cove Chamber of Commerce president.

Price was ecstatic with the return of the Rabbit Fest pageant after a nearly 20-year layoff and said organizers let Jno G. Lewis Masonic Lodge No. 622 run the car show.

“We had to go grass roots on this, calling on everyone we know in the car community with phone calls and Facebook,” said Marcus Smith, the car show’s spokesman. “We have 46 cars this year and last year they only pulled in about 20.”

If a parade and car show weren’t enough, there were rides that spun, dropped, rose and bumped. There was barbecue, Hawaiian-style food, and sweets along with 102 vendors from all over Texas that offered unique items. Some of the offerings included wine racks made out of horse shoes, rakes sold alongside stained-glass art and metal Texas-themed signage.

“This is an incredible opportunity for our citizens to get out and enjoy their community while giving local business’s a chance to push their products — it’s mutually beneficial,” Price said.

Rabbit Fest continues from noon to 6 p.m. today with more carnival rides, vendors and live entertainment. Carnival wrist bands are $20. For more information, go to City Park is at 1204 W. Avenue B in Copperas Cove.

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