Watch this space…no, THIS one!

As I sit writing this, I’m looking out into the gardens on a gray day with a temperature right now of about 37 degrees.  If we have had a colder winter in the last few decades, it’s entirely escaped my memory!

However, I turn 90 degrees to my right and see a beautiful watercolor of a Japanese iris done by one of our local artists, and it’s a reminder that spring IS on the way…eventually.  And there is all kinds of stuff cooking behind the scenes!

Every Memorial Day weekend, Swan Lake Iris Gardens becomes the center of the Sumter community as both local people and visitors from up and down the Eastern Seaboard crowd in to take in the sights, smells and tastes of our beautiful gardens and the wide array of vendors who have set up shop for the weekend.  We’ll have everything from our famous irises (the only time of year that they are on sale to the public) to exotic metalwork…rustic wood furniture to the latest in handbags and costume jewelry…and of course, enough fair food to stuff a few elephants!  This year’s event will be held May 27-29, with the Taste of the Gardens on Thursday, May 26 kicking off the festivities with one of most anticipated events around!

Planning for this event is a year-round affair, with the Iris Commission taking only a one-month break during the summer.  The rest of the year is devoted to planning for each festival to be bigger and better than the ones that have gone before.  There is still a lot in the “hush-hush” planning stages, but it’s all coming together.  And although she will not appreciate me for this, I am compelled to give a shout out to Lynn Kennedy, the Sumter Iris Festival Chair.  Lynn has been involved with the festival since her daddy got her into it as a small child, and she dedicated many years to it as a member of the Sumter Jaycees.  We are fortunate to have her on board as the City Events Coordinator, and the time, energy and enthusiasm that Lynn brings to everything she touches is absolutely inspiring.  The Commission itself is made up of dedicated volunteers from many areas of the community, but it’s Lynn who holds it all together and makes things happen in her behind-the-scenes, persuasive way (along with the City parks staff, who should be wearing capes during the event because they get things done that appear to be downright…well…superhuman).

So why am I going on about this, on this cold and possibly rainy day?  It’s because we are always looking for enthusiastic new vendors who can bring in their handiwork, their beautiful artistic creations and whatever else can add to everyone’s fun…and encourage our guests to take home a little piece of Sumter.  (And also, it will be warm outside by then—but we’re hoping it won’t be too hot.)

The Sumter Iris Festival maintains a website at  If you are interested in becoming a vendor, watch this site, because applications will be online by February 1.  Although we have generous deadlines, we also have a lot of people who want in on the action, so please get your applications in early for the best chance at one of our vendor slots. 

For more questions regarding the festival, please call the Swan Lake Visitors Center at (803) 436-2640 or toll-free at 1-800-688-4748.  We’re hoping to see you there!

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