The Sumter Iris Festival returns with shows, food and crafts

Celebrating its 80th anniversary, the festival opened with food vendors and performances.

SUMTER, SC — After a two-year pandemic hiatus, the Sumter Iris Festival returned on Thursday.

Celebrating its 80th anniversary, the festival, which draws tens of thousands of people to the town of Gamecock, opened with a ‘Taste at the Gardens’, connecting patrons with food vendors and entertainment.

“We cut the ribbon. We opened the 80th Iris Festival in Sumter, SC. ​​Just a fun night,” Mayor David Merchant said. “We’ve crowned our new king and queen of the Iris Festival… We’ve got vendors, food, just different things we can do. It’s entertainment all weekend.”

The free festival will open Friday through Sunday at 10 a.m., close at 6 p.m. Friday and Saturday, and 5 p.m. Sunday. Festival vendors will be open all three days.

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Visitors can enjoy a pontoon boat ride on Swan Lake. This is the only time these rides are available on the lake.

This is also the only time of year people can buy Japanese irises at the gardens, which will be on sale every three days at the Sumter Master Gardener’s stand.

“I think it’s a good thing for the community,” said Jack Hartzog, who was in attendance. “Obviously it gets people out and you help small businesses that are in the area.”

Mike Nelson, another attendee, agreed, noting the food was a draw.

“Great weather. The rain didn’t show,” Nelson said. “I started with shrimp and oatmeal. I’m up for the strawberry shortcake.”

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After the festival closes on Friday, the free concert series Forth Friday will kick off on Main Street at 6 p.m. with Too Much Sylvia. Next, the Red Clay Strays will perform at 8 p.m. at the Sumter Opera House.

There will be more for the kids to do this year, with the addition of a petting zoo, STEM activities, and more all weekend, and on Saturdays an old-fashioned carousel. The Sumter Iris Festival Shrine Day Parade also takes place on Saturdays at 10am.

On Saturday night, to celebrate the 80th anniversary of the festival, The DeLoreans, an 80s tribute band, will take the stage at the Sumter Original Brewery. Tickets for the show for all ages cost $20 and are available online at One of the highlights of the evening will be an 80s costume contest.

Santee-Wateree RTA will provide shuttle service from the Sumter County Civic Center on Saturday and Sunday during festival hours.

“It’s a huge boost for the city,” Mayor Merchant said. “It brings us all together and it’s like people say there’s nothing to do in Sumter this weekend, they have a problem because it’s just a fun weekend full of action. All kinds of family entertainment, you I know, young, old, single, married, all around. So we’re just asking people to come to Sumter this weekend and join us in having fun. have fun.

The Sumter Iris Festival is located at Swan Lake Iris Gardens at 822 W Liberty St. To find a complete list of scheduled events as well as parking information, visit

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