By Sgt. Beth Lake (USARCENT)August 20, 2010
From Plantation-era homes to multiple sports complexes, children's theater productions and music on the square, Sumter, S.C., offers a multitude of opportunities for incoming residents and workers.
Incoming Soldiers and Family members from Third Army/U.S. Army Central (Third Army) saw this first-hand as they participated in Sumter's City Tour Aug. 11.
The first portion of the tour brought 15 Soldiers and their Families to the historic Sumter Opera House, where they were shown an informational video on the city and its many amenities. Sumter's Opera House was built in 1872 and has served in a variety of roles over the years, but now holds administrative offices as well as some city government offices. It is also functions as a venue for the arts by showing children's and classic movies, as well as hosting the Columbia City Ballet, the Columbia Children's Theater and a variety of comedians and musicians.
Following the briefings at the opera house, representatives from local health care facilities, public schools and the Sumter Board of Realtors answered Soldiers' questions and ensured they received the most up-to-date and accurate information on Sumter. "This orientation and tour is important for Third Army Soldiers and Families because it gives them an opportunity not only to see the community and what it has to offer, but also an opportunity to interact with city and county staff members," said Susan Wild, communications, tourism and recreations director for Sumter. "This gives them one-on-one interaction and provides them with resources so when they are on their own, they feel comfortable enough to pick up the phone and call someone with questions."
Following the visit to the opera house, Soldiers took a bus tour, which took them past Sumter's main business districts, schools, sports facilities and parks, giving Families an idea of what is available to them.
Kyler Briggins went on the tour with his mom, Sgt. Veronica Briggins, operations sergeant, who came to Sumter with Third Army's advance party. Briggins said his favorite part of the tour was seeing Swan Lake Iris Gardens.
Swan Lake Iris Gardens began in 1927 as a fishing retreat and is now the only public park in the U.S. to have all eight swan species. Visitors can walk through a boardwalk exploring the cypress swamp and open-air gardens, as well as enjoy picnic shelters and a playground.
Briggins will be attending school in Sumter and said he hopes to come back to the gardens with his mom to do more exploring and to learn how to ride a skateboard at Sumter's local skateboarding park. In addition to the skatepark,the tour also highlighted an aquatics center that hosts swim meets and has a city swim team, a 24 court tennis center free to the public and a park that has T-ball, baseball, soccer and softball teams.
"Sumter is excited to welcome you all to our community," Wild said. "We have a lot to offer here and we want to make sure by providing this tour and orientation, we are directing Soldiers to the individuals in the community who can provide answers to their questions (and) make sure they get the full story of our community."