IRIS FESTIVAL: Decades-old tradition kicks off at Sumter’s Swan Lake

SUMTER, SC (WOLO) — For those that live in Sumter, Memorial Day weekend is especially important.

One of the state’s oldest festivals comes to town started Thursday night.

“We have a very large team and everybody helps,” said Iris Festival chair Kristin Milan. “It takes about a week of non-stop work but we work on it throughout the year.”

The 81st Iris Festival is an annual Memorial Day weekend tradition for those in the Sumter area.

“We’re one of the longest running festivals in South Carolina. What makes it special is that it is at Swan Lake Iris Garden which is one of the only public parks in the country that has all eight species of swan,” Milan said. “You get a little bit of everything when you come here. There’s activities for kids and adults and shopping for anything you could possibly want.”

With hundreds of vendors, food trucks, live music, children’s activities, car shows, a petting zoo and more, there really is something for everyone.

“We also have the boat rides. The only time you can ride on a boat on Swan Lake is during the Iris Festival,” said Shelley Kile, Sumter tourism director.

Kile says the festival is also the perfect time to see all the irises in bloom, although this year has been a little cold for the flowers. 

“But we do have some beautiful flowers out there thanks to the master gardeners,” Kile said. “The only time you can buy Japanese irises from the garden is during the festival. I’ve seen them and they’re absolutely gorgeous and in full bloom. We invite everyone to come check them out.”

If you can’t make it Friday night to Swan Lake, there will be more fun to be had all weekend.

“Friday and Saturday it’s 10 to 6. Sunday it’s 10 to 5. When the festival ends, the fun continues downtown and around the community,” Kile  said. “The Sumter Little Theater has a play this weekend. Downtown Sumter has a free concert tomorrow night. The Regional Transportation Authority is offering a free shuttle for those at Shaw Air Force Base to come down tomorrow night as well.”

Check out all the events at the Iris Festival here.


Categories: Local News, News, Sumter