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'It’s always a trip down memory lane': Fantasy of Lights unites generations for the 35th year

Over a million lights are on display throughout the entire month of December at Swan Lake Iris Gardens in Sumter. This year marks the 35th year of the event.

SUMTER, S.C. — Over a million lights are on now display at Swan Lake Iris Gardens for the Fantasy of Lights' first night of the season. It’s a tradition that families have been coming to for 35 years.

For others like Effingham resident Frances Dotson, this year is her first time seeing it in person.

"I love Christmas," Dotson shared. "It’s my favorite season."

Dotson drove an hour to Sumter with senior members of her church for the first night of the month-long light display.

"They’re beautiful," Dotson exclaimed. "I’ve had friends tell me about it, but this is beautiful!"

While this is Dotson’s first time seeing the lights in person, for others like Nikoya Robinson, it’s a yearly tradition.

"Some of these lights that are out here were here when I was a kid," Robinson shared. "So I remember coming down and seeing the Santa Claus, maybe even Spiderman, I don’t even remember but a lot of these lights have been out here that long, so it’s always a trip down memory lane."

Now, she’s passing it onto her children.

"It’s one of the best traditions, honestly. I love that I am able to bring them out here so they can have these memories," Robinson told me. "Memories that maybe they can take with them the rest of their lives."

For Robinson’s son Oakland, he’s got his eyes up high.

"So much just looking at the sky," Oakland explained.

With the classic dance performances and countdown to start off the first night, this year also brought a new addition. Two Sumter students submitted drawings for the mayor’s holiday card. Their designs were then created into figurines.

"I think this is a fantastic idea. You know, the kids put their heart and soul into it," Sumter resident Ashley Cook shared. "I think this is just an extra special treat for them, so they can come and throughout the years when they grow up show their kids, ‘I did this."

Cook has been bringing her daughter Julianne to the display every year.

"The lights are really pretty and I enjoy taking pictures every year," Julianne explained.

The light display is open Monday through Thursday until 9 p.m. On the weekends, it’s open until 10 p.m.


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