Reflections by Sammy Way: 82 years of history - a look at Iris Festivals past


Sumter will celebrate its 82nd Iris Festival at Swan Lake Iris Gardens this Memorial Day weekend, with thousands expected to visit the gardens to enjoy good music, food, family friendly events and the blooming of the Japanese irises. Here we take a look back at Iris Festivals past.

H.C. Bland moved to Sumter in 1917 from Mayesville and bought a pond on the northern side of Liberty Street in 1930 to use for fishing and as a bird sanctuary, according to The Sumter Item archives. He created 10 islands in the pond using debris he found and ordered swans from New York, which eventually gave the lake its name. He planted Japanese iris bulbs in the wet, acidic soil of the pond after they failed to grow at his home, and the blooming irises attracted attention that led to the creation of the Iris Festival in 1940.