Culture in Sumter, SC

Patriot Hall in Sumter, SC
Patriot Hall in Sumter, SC

Sumter's residents stay busy thanks to plenty of fun activities that take place throughout the year, as well as engaging attractions located all over the city. Here's a look at some of the venues and activities Sumter has to offer. 

Art and Theater

Need a little artistic inspiration? Browse artwork by locally and nationally renowned artists at the Sumter County Gallery of Art. The gallery offers free tours by reservation and a gift shop filled with one-of-a-kind gifts and decorative items. Art classes are available for kids, teens and adults in several different media, from pottery to basket-making.

Patriot Hall is a performing arts facility that is host to performances by local actors and musicians, cultural events and conventions. Tours of Patriot Hall, which includes a 1,000-seat auditorium, meeting rooms and more, can be arranged.

The Sumter Little Theatre offers a variety of plays and musicals for all ages. Performances are held at the Sumter County Cultural Center. The nonprofit group includes a youth theater, which allows children to participate in all aspects of stage performance including set building, costumes, makeup and acting.

Festivals Galore

Sumter County citizens sure know how to throw a party – and they do it often. Sumter’s long-running Iris Festival is held every May and features a flower show, crowning of the Iris Festival king and queen, concerts and more.

From May through September, people flock to downtown Sumter to enjoy Downtown Friday Nights, which take place three out of four Fridays per month and include concerts, movies and more. Also taking place in September, the Sumter Shaw Street Fest salutes the men and women stationed at nearby Shaw Air Force Base with a huge street festival.

Each October, downtown Sumter hosts the Halloween on Main festival for costumed kids and pets. December finds Sumter celebrating the holiday season with the Swan Lake Fantasy of Lights, the largest free Christmas light display in the state, and the Sumter Poinsettia Festival featuring a drive-through nativity, visits from Santa and live local entertainment.

Local Landmarks

The Sumter Opera House on Main Street is often called the crown jewel of downtown Sumter. The historic opera house has been entertaining crowds in Sumter County since it was built in the 1890s. Today the restored building houses City Hall as well as city departments and offices. The first-floor auditorium, decorated in the Art Deco style, hosts local and national acts ranging from concerts and theater to dance and classic films. The opera house’s 100-foot clock tower atop the Richardson-Romanesque style building is visible from much of downtown.

Bask in the beauty of nature at Sumter’s Swan Lake Iris Gardens, the only public park in the United States that features all eight swan species. The shiny black waters of Swan Lake provide a striking backdrop for its many islands bursting with colorful irises, camellias, azaleas, day lilies and Japanese magnolias. The floral wonderland is visited by more than 250,000 people annually and has become a haven for wildlife.

Sumter County Museum

Love history? Sumter County has a rich 300-year heritage you can relive with a visit to the Sumter County Museum complex. It is home to a collection of historic structures, more than 108,000 artifacts, and re-enactors who bring the county’s heritage to life.

The museum campus includes the 1916 Williams-Brice House, the Genealogical and Historical Research Center, the Heritage Education Center, the Carolina Backcountry Homestead and the beautiful Martha Brice Gardens. The Carolina Backcountry Homestead hosts periodic living history events and includes a log cabin, smokehouse, barn, commissary, loomhouse, outhouse, blacksmith shop and gardens.

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