Porches of Sumter Annual Event
Nestled in the land between South Carolina’s majestic mountains and sandy beaches lies Sumter, a charming community that’s easy to find and hard to leave. Incorporated in 1845 and named for Gen. Thomas Sumter (an American Revolutionary War hero), Sumter is the hometown of 42,700 friendly folks who have a reputation for making visitors and newcomers feel right at home.
“People take you under their wing pretty quickly,” says Nancy Lee Zimpleman, vice president of membership development for the Greater Sumter Chamber of Commerce. “I came here 11 years ago from Louisiana, and immediately felt like I was part of a large family. There are always things to do, people to encourage you, to attend to you, and you immediately feel welcomed."
Porches of Sumter Event
Every October, the Greater Sumter Chamber of Commerce sponsors a community-building event called Porches of Sumter in the historic neighborhood surrounding Memorial Park. It allows ticket holders to walk from front porch to front porch in the historic district while mingling with homeowners and sampling foods prepared by homeowners, caterers and chefs.
“It’s like a neighborhood block party. You can visit the houses in any order and stroll at your leisure,” Zimpleman says. “We say, ‘Make new friends, and catch up with old ones.’ Some participants tell us they never make it to all the homes because they get so caught up talking with old friends.”
Sumter native Kay Rhoads and her husband Dusty live in a 1937 Colonial Revival home on Calhoun Street and have participated in Porches of Sumter for the past two years.
“We thoroughly enjoy the event,” says Rhoads, a “semi-retired” college administrator who owns an antique shop on Main Street called la bella vita. “People are always curious about old houses, and Porches of Sumter gives them the opportunity to walk the streets around Memorial Park and get a feel for the way Sumter was 50 or 60 years ago. It’s a very creative activity that brings the community together and showcases our historic district at the same time.”
Ten historic homes participated in the 2012 Porches of Sumter Event, with homeowners serving Southern favorites such as shrimp creole, she-crab soup, jambalaya, and shrimp and grits. Rhoads served her specialty – Carolina Caviar.
“It’s a marinated black-eyed pea salad with a humorous name,” Rhoads says with a laugh.
Heart of Sumter Neighborhood Association
Porches of Sumter wraps up at Memorial Park with desserts provided by the Heart of Sumter Neighborhood Association. The association includes 500 homes and has 125 active families who live in the historic district between Miller, Broad, Washington, Liberty and Guignard streets.
“Sumter is still largely a handshake city – the people are friendly and welcoming,” says Billy Taylor, president of the Heart of Sumter Neighborhood Association. “Lots of people are involved in Sumter, and the city is becoming revitalized, which will help the upcoming young workers.”
Porches of Sumter is one of many events that foster a sense of community in Sumter. Heart of Sumter sponsors an annual Art in the Park event in October, where about 25 local artists gather at Memorial Park to show and sell their work. In the spring, the Sumter Symphony presents a free concert in the park, and residents come with their picnic baskets to enjoy the music.
“There are always a ton of fun events happening in Sumter,” Zimpleman says, “whether it’s a concert, a festival or classic movies at the Opera House.”
Find out more on Sumter's neighborhoods.