Sycamore Pumpkin Fest commences

By Marianne Renner

Sycamore’s 26th annual Pumpkin Fest kicks off the Halloween season today with entries for the pumpkin contest.

“The Pumpkin Fest actually began 26 years ago when Wally Thurow put pumpkins on his lawn for the kids,” Fest Committee President Mary Emmer said.

“After that, the Lions Club did it as a town until it grew to what it is today,” she said.

Today the Pumpkin Fest is the fourth largest festival in Illinois with an attendance of about 100,000 people, she said.

The purpose of the festival is to “provide a healthy, attractive and fun family activity,” Emmer said. She said the festival mainly is intended for children because that’s the way it originally started. “We really want to keep kids involved,” she said.

This year’s theme for the pumpkin contest, which was selected by children, is “Storybook Pumpkin.” The contest is divided into nine categories for both children and adults.

The pumpkin contest, along with a scarecrow contest, is sponsored by the Lions Club and entries will be accepted from 4 to 9 p.m.

Emmer said about 900 pumpkins are estimated to be entered in the contest.

There also will be a haunted house, sponsored by the Jaycees. It will be open from 7 to 10 p.m. tonight and Thursday, 7 to 11 p.m. Friday, 1 to 3 p.m. and 7 to 11 p.m. Saturday. It will be open from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sunday.

“The afternoon hours are for children and it (the haunted house) will be lighted,” Emmer said.

Thursday will bring a parade to the streets at 1 p.m., sponsored by the Jaycees.

Parade Chairman Mike Miner said the parade will have more than 100 units including floats, 23 competing bands, NIU’s show band and show animals including llamas. State Rep. John Countryman, R-DeKalb; Sen. Patrick Welch, D-Peru; and U.S. Rep. Dennis Hastert, R-Illinois also will be in the parade.

“The DeKalb County Shriners also will be there as they are every year,” Miner said.

Various food booths will be open over the weekend, giving those attending the chance to try new foods. Emmer said all concessions are sponsored by non-profit organizations which will support various charities.

“We don’t want to attract people who just want to make money, this is what really makes us different from other festivals,” she said. “This is a time for children of all ages.”

Saturday the Rotary Club will sponsor a pancake breakfast at the Federated Church from 7 a.m. to 1 p.m. and the Ladies Aid Society of St. John’s Lutheran Church will sponsor a cream turkey luncheon from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

On Saturday there also will be a pie-eating contest at 4 p.m. on the court house lawn sponsored by the Kiwanis Club.

The Sycamore High School Music Boosters will be holding an Antique Craft and Flea Market at the high school from 9 to 5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.

A bus will be running from the downtown area to the high school every 15 minutes.

Also on Sunday a 10K race, sponsored by the Sycamore Armory, will begin at 9:30 a.m. at the Chamber of Commerce, 206 W. State St.

Each year the festival committee is chosen by the organizations sponsoring it. “We begin planning for the festival in January and we welcome anyone in the community who wants to participate,” Emmer said.