The spring and summer festival season in South Carolina is well underway.
Already, communities have paid homage to strawberries in Fort Mill and roses in Orangeburg. They’ve raced sailboats in Charleston and watched potters work in Johnston.
County fairs have begun. The first, the Great Anderson County Fair began Thursday and runs for 10 days.
South Carolina has no lack of fruit, plants and animals to honor – peaches, shrimp, azaleas, crawfish, pickles, Boykin spaniels and blue crab. In Bluffton, the Rotary Club’s Mayfest judges ugly dogs.
Many benefit charities such as Meals on Wheels (Downtown Sumter Microbrew and HippieFest May 13) and Shriners Children’s Hospital (Reggaetronic June 4 at Lake Murray).
The sciway.net website has a full calendar of festivals and other events.
We’ve selected 5 to highlight, but every one has its charms.
Held on Memorial Day weekend (May 27-29 this year) at Swan Lake Iris Gardens in Sumter, the Iris Festival is hailed as South Carolina’s oldest continuous festival. Sciway says it “consistently ranks as a top SE festival, includes concerts, arts & crafts, plants, classic car shows, contests, lots of children’s activities.”
The festival has been named numerous times as a Top 20 Event from the Southeastern Tourism Society and was awarded a Top 100 Event in the United States by the American Bus Association, its website says.
In fact, bus tours from all over the United States and Canada make stops at the Iris Festival.
And on the Thursday before the festival begins, a king and queen are crowned and local chefs lay out a feast.
The festival begins May 27 at 10 am until 6 pm, same hours on Saturday. And Sunday the hours are 10 am to 5 pm
Peach Tree 23 Yard Sale
You might never have seen anything quite like this.
This is 44 miles on SC Highway 23 from Batesburg-Leesville to Modoc of stuff.
Seven towns along what’s known as the Ridge southwest of Columbia.
Clothing, jewelry, furniture, household items. There are farmers markets, art for sale, local restaurants.
“You’ll meet some great folks as you wind your way along a beautiful stretch of rural South Carolina dotted with charming small towns, beautiful old Southern homes and historic places,” the events website says.
Edgefield is on the route, home to 10 South Carolina governors including Strom Thurmond, who died at age 101 after serving in the US Senate for 48 years.
Edgefield is also known for murders and mayhem as the town says on its website. It’s home to none other than the Devil in Petticoats Becky Cotton, who killed her husband with an ax to his head after he did not save her father from angry men at a land deal.
But that’s just a distraction from the yard sale tour.
“Everything you want to find, you can find on the“ Peach Tree, ”said Pat Asbill, former mayor of Ridge Spring, which is no slack town itself with historic churches and peach, pecan, asparagus farms. Lots of horses and cattle growers, too.
Peachtree 23 Yard Sale runs June 3-4.
Flopeye Fish Festival
Great Falls, located along the Catawba River in Chester County, is home to about 2,000 people and the Flopeye Fish Festival.
Don’t go googling around for a photo of the flopeye fish. No such thing. It’s a section of this little town, which arose from the construction of hydroelectric plants by what is now known as Duke Energy.
The story goes that some 75 years ago shopkeeper Andy Morrison would sit in front of his general store and have a hard time keeping his eyes open.
Three women passing by saw him and one said, “Who is that old flop-eyed man?”
“Several by-standers heard her and news traveled fast over the grapevine to the Republic Cotton Mills President, Mr. Rob Mebane, ”the festival website says. “Flopeye, a good name for that part of town, he said. The name, then, was promoted by mill management and took hold. People liked saying they had been to FLOPEYE. And they still do. ”
The festival May 28 and 29 features an auto show, vendors, musical entertainment and the like, It’s located at the industrial park just north of town, 2534 James Baker Blvd.
By the way, Great Falls and the Catawba are known to anglers for trout, walleye and smallmouth bass. Just don’t expect to find Flopeye.
Beaufort Water Festival
You’ve got to be a serious festival town to stage one for 10 days and Beaufort considers itself just that. In fact, they call it South Carolina’s “premier festival, 10 incredible days of Lowcountry fun & memories that last a lifetime.”
Here’s how they fill those days. Something for everyone.
The all-volunteer event includes arts and crafts, raft race, tournaments for bocce, badminton and, for kids, a toad fish tournament. There’s a talent show, an air show and a ski show. There’s also a river rally, shrimp boat tours and a bed race, live entertainment, a Commodore’s Ball and finally on the last day, blessing of the fleet.
This year’s commodore Shawna Doran began volunteering with the festival in 1999.
“I was hooked,” she said in a post on the festival webpage. “I have made enduring friendships and have cherished working alongside so many talented and dedicated community members.”
This year, the 66th festival, the theme is “Sun, Fun and Vitamin Sea.”
It runs from July 15-24.
Your own lighthouse tour
National Lighthouse Day is on Aug. 7. Imagine a tour along South Carolina’s coast to see all 11 lighthouses.
From the south they go from Daufuskie Island to Little River. Two are operational and run by the US Coast Guard. Most are not open to the public, but there is something about just standing and looking and remembering the role lighthouses have played in history and to see how different they all look, how they have weathered with time.
Daufuskie Island just south of Hilton Head and South Carolina’s southernmost sea island has two lighthouses, Haig Point and Bloody Point, that showed the way to and from Savannah. The island is accessible only by boat.
Lemington Lighthouse, built between 1879 and 1880, served to guide ships into Port Royal Sound. It is known as Hilton Head Rear Range Light because it does not face the sea and is now part of Palmetto Dunes Resort.
This is not to be confused with Harbor Town Lighthouse on Hilton Head Island, which is something of a decoration, never used for navigation but as a piece of the island’s shopping district. It is open to the public.
Morris Island Lighthouse is the third lighthouse to occupy the site south of Charleston and best seen from Folly Beach. Construction began in 1872 and it was put into service four years later.
Once there were homes for men who manned the light. Now, the tower sits in the water, erosion slowly sloughing the sand away.
Save The Light Inc. is working to raise funds to do just as its name implies.
Charleston Light on Sullivan’s Island near Charleston is the state’s other working light and not open to the public. Discover South Carolina says it’s one of the most modern lighthouses in the country.
The other still-functioning lighthouse and the oldest is Georgetown Light. It was built in 1811 and is closed to the public.
And at Little River, Governor’s Lighthouse is another facsimile lighthouse, built in 1984 as a tourist destination in a neighborhood of beach houses, Discover South Carolina says on its website.
Two lighthouses, also not open to the public and the most remote of all, are on Cape Romain National Wildlife Refuge. Six miles at sea, the lights, built in 1827 and 1857, are accessible four times a year via a boat tour.
National Lighthouse Day does not have a recurring proclamation from the federal government. Twice, it was recognized by Congress, both times for that year only.
But for all lovers of lighthouses the day is etched in history.