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Months of preparation in the works to get ready for Sumter's annual Fantasy of Lights

With over a million lights to hang up, trees to trim and characters to build, a crew of about 10 members starts working in early September to prepare.

SUMTER, S.C. — If you come to Swan Lake Iris Gardens, you might see crew members hanging up lights. They’re getting ready for the Fantasy of Lights

"Right now it looks like mad chaos," Parks and Gardens Specialist Jontia Williams explained. "We’re prepping in the middle of getting everything up for lights."

Williams has been out with his crew seven days a week since the beginning of September trimming trees before untangling and then hanging up over a million lights.

"I don’t think people know the detail of it. They just come and see the lights up and like ‘Oh wow,’ but hands out to our guys, they do an excellent job," Williams said. "[The lights are] tangled and we have bulbs go out so we have to go back and try to pinpoint which bulb’s out and might have to take a string out and squirrels get up there and chew on them wires so we have to replace. So it’s a constant job until it’s over with."

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It’s a "tedious process," but the end result is what he looks forward to the whole time.

"It’s worth it just to see the smiles on people face, and the little kids, the "oohs" and "ahhs," it makes it worthwhile," Williams told me.

The Fantasy of Lights started in 1989, according to Tourism Manager Krissy Milan. 

"It started as a wonderful idea and has done nothing but grow, evolve, change and just gotten better every year," Milan explained.

She says while the celebration gets better every year, one thing remains the same: there’s no cost to enjoy it.

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"There’s so few things anymore that’s free for the whole family. And this event really brings the whole community together," Milan shared. "You get to drive through, you get to take pictures, you get to see Santa, there’s entertainment. It’s just a lot for absolutely nothing."

The crew will be there throughout this entire month as they get ready for the celebration to start on Dec. 1.

"They trim the trees so the lights are set up along the tops of the trees, but also as you drive through it will go down around the trunks of the trees," Milan explained. "We have lights that go down Liberty Street along the fence, across the bridge, and then all the way down Garden Street you’ll see lights, you'll see characters, you’ll see arches, and just a multitude…you’re surrounded and engulfed in this wonderful experience."

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