More than 20 statues of cats, which have been painted and decorated by local artists, will be unveiled downtown on Saturday.


The statues of Barney, a 28-inch tall Fiberglas cat, will join the Horseplay horses in and around downtown after the unveiling and, after a period of time on display, will be auctioned off next year. The unveiling will take place from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. in The Alley, rain or shine. The event is free, and the public is welcome to attend.


The barn cats will be the largest fundraiser to date for the Friends of the Gaston Livery Stable, a nonprofit group working to restore the historic structure on Richland Avenue.


“I think people will be surprised when they see this artwork,” said Friends member Allen Riddick.


The cats have been painted and decorated with a variety of colors and themes. Several cats pay homage to Aiken’s rich equestrian history, some are covered with scenic flowers and wildlife, and The Great Catsby, painted by Michael Gunter of Wesley’s Automotive Service, features a tuxedo and top hat.


The Gaston Livery Stable, sandwiched between Park and Richland avenues, is one of only five all-brick barns in South Carolina and is one of the oldest, having been built circa 1893, according to Friends of the Gaston Livery Stable founding member Coleen Reed.


Its carriage lift makes it one of perhaps only four barns in the country with the unique feature, she said.


The Friends bought the barn in January and is actively working to pay off the mortgage.


“The cats will be put into stores that afternoon (after the unveiling) and will sit there until they’re bought or put up for auction,” Riddick said.


For more information or tours of the barn, call Riddick at 649-6050 or email peppercats@bellsouth.net.