Marie McAden



Swan Lake Iris Gardens offers free Christmas light show

Posted 12/14/2011 11:14:00 AM

The town of Sumter is giving visitors an early Christmas present — a free holiday light show at its world-famous Swan Lake Iris Gardens.

One of the largest lighted displays in South Carolina, the 24th Annual Fantasy of Lights features more than a million lights, 150 lighted figures and a floating Christmas tree.

Just down the road in the Heath Pavilion at the end of Garden Street is Santa’s Village, open from 6 to 8 p.m. Dec. 16 and Dec. 17. Along with a visit from Santa, the evening festivities will include choir performances and a presentation of “Dance of the Northern Lights,” featuring synchronized lights and music.

Renowned for its namesake swans and Japanese iris collection, the 150-acre park goes all out each December illuminating the grounds in a spectacle of lights you won’t soon forget.

Come early and enjoy the colorful camellias blooming in the winter garden. Be sure to take a walk around Swan Lake and try to spot the eight swan species — Royal White Mute Swans, Black Necked Swans, Trumpeters, Whoopers, Coscorobas, Bewick Swans, Whistler Swans and Black Australians — that make their home in the gardens. No other public park in the country features all eight species.

As the sun goes down, the park will come alive in a festive holiday display. Your kids will enjoy pointing out some of the characters on parade, among them Barney, Bob the Builder, Sponge Bob and Dora the Explorer.

The drive-through light show is open from dusk to 9 p.m. Sunday through Thursday and until 10 Friday and Saturday nights through Dec. 31.

Swan Lake Iris Gardens is located about 40 miles from Columbia. Admission to the park is free. For more information, click here or call the Swan Lake Visitors Center at (800) 688-4748.