This holiday weekend marks the beginning of the busy summer season as the Sumter community honors Memorial Day. Family friendly events will pay tribute to all the dedicated members of the American military who sacrifice their lives in the name of freedom.
We start off the weekend with the Sumter Iris Festival, but more importantly (at least for this post), the Vietnam Traveling Memorial Wall. The wall will be escorted into Swan Lake Iris Gardens (822 W. Liberty Street) on Wednesday (today), but it will not officially open to the public until Friday, May 24th at 10 a.m. and remain through Monday, May 27th at 7 p.m. Not only can you visit the wall during this time, you can also preserve a name on the wall by performing a “rubbing” (it’s important to note that all necessary materials to perform rubbing will be supplied to you upon your arrival to the wall and they are complementary), and you can view a unique collection of Vietnam era military memorabilia at the Swan Lake Visitors Center, including the actual pen that was used to sign the Paris Peace Treaty in 1973. Also, beginning at 11 a.m. on Monday will be a special ceremony in honor of Memorial Day. Most Sumterites will find the Monday ceremony familiar, as this is the event that typically takes place at the General George Mabry Memorial Park on US 76/378 outside Shaw Air Force Base. Because of the Wall presence, this year, Vietnam Veterans Association has moved the ceremony to Visitors Center lawn at Swan Lake. Again, the event starts at 11 a.m. on Monday and will have a host of keynote speakers, including Purple Heart recipient Dave Nesbitt (who can also be viewed in a recent YouTube video produced by the City of Sumter on Vietnam Veterans).
Next, spend your afternoon at the Veterans Appreciation Community Fish Fry, which will be held at South Sumter Park (630 South Sumter Street) on Monday, May 27th from 12 Noon to 4 p.m. It is hosted by the various South Sumter Neighborhood Associations as well as many of the area churches. This event is sure to please all of your senses, with great food, entertainment, basketball games, Splash Park, children’s activities and more fun for the entire family.
Make sure to round out the day at the Sumter County Military Display, located on the first floor of the James E. Clyburn Transportation Center, 129 S. Harvin Street. Local historian Sammy Way, who operates the museum, will open the doors from 2-5 p.m. to share the history of veterans from all walks of life and branches of the military. The display features 18 cases full of military memorabilia, 80 uniform displays and more than 3000 photos, most of which have been acquired from Sumter area residents both past and present. I went on my own tour of this display a few weeks ago and I will say that coming from a town the size of Sumter, it is an impressive collection of artifacts, ranging from WWI up to the Afghan War, and one that everyone in Sumter needs to experience. Sammy is a wealth of knowledge, too, and happy to share all of the stories passed on to him by families and friends who have donated items to the collection. Music and refreshments will also be served.
All events are free and open to the public. So please take the opportunity to demonstrate Sumter’s “uncommon patriotism” by honoring those who have and continue to serve our country, as well as by supporting these worthwhile community-wide Memorial Day events.
I wish each of you a safe holiday weekend.
by Shelley Kile