AIKEN -- With patriotic sounds of John Phillip Sousa marching music filling the air, Bugs Bunny and Mayor Fred Cavanaugh led off the Pennies for the Park Parade on Saturday.
The mayor and Bugs trooped around Virginia Acres Park, followed by wagons, bicycles, tricycles and occasional dogs decked out in patriotic garb of red, white and blue, clown costumes or Raggedy Ann and Andy.
The spirited fun on the day after the Fourth of July was to raise money to pay off the mortgage on the Carolina Bay Nature Reserve, 14 acres of natural wetland located adjacent to Virginia Acres Park across Price Avenue.
"It's going to be unlike any other park in Aiken, more of a wilderness," Mr. Cavanaugh said. "It will be another area of green space for people to go to."
Saturday's parade and picnic included a raffle for a 20foot Galaxie personal watercraft. Other prizes were a week at Edisto Beach, two rail side spaces for the Aiken Fall Steeplechase with tickets and picnic lunch for eight, and dinner for two at several restaurants.
There were also contests to see who could eat the most pie and watermelon.
More than $200,000 of the $600,000 estimated to buy the land already has been raised in a little less than two years, said Lee Dane, vice president of the Aiken County Open Land Trust, which is working to save the reserve.
The fund raising began with a vote by Aiken City Council to give $60,000 over three years toward the purchase price.
The nature reserve consists of two parcels. One is just under three acres and was owned by the SRP Federal Credit Union, which was one of the sponsors of Saturday's event. The other tract of more than 11 acres was owned by a partnership from Augusta and Columbia, which is represented by Blanchard & Calhoun, an Augusta-based Realtor.
Mrs. Dane said the Carolina Bay Nature Reserve is one of the last in this area.
"It's a last refuge for frogs, salamanders, wood ducks that nest there," she said. "We have squirrels, a family of foxes and other small mammals and hope to bring back the endangered fox squirrels."
The Land Trust hopes the mortgage can be paid off in two to three years. The longrange goal is to restore the wetland and pond of Carolina Bay with the vegetation, fish, animals and birds that lived there before it was farmed and timbered.