Annual Pumpkin Festival arrives in Sycamore

By Edwin Kelso

DeKALB – In 1956, Sycamore resident Wally Thurrow displayed a few decorated pumpkins on his front lawn. Six years later, this would spawn an event that would define the Sycamore community for decades to come.

Now, in 2019, a Wild West Pumpkin Fest is taking over the streets of downtown Sycamore. The 57th installment of this annual event will bring pumpkin decorating contests, whirring carnival rides, snacks and crafts. 

Inspired by Thurrow’s pumpkin display, Pumpkin Fest began with a mission to promote the city of Sycamore and allow nonprofit vendors from DeKalb County to partake in fundraising. This year’s event will feature over 30 nonprofit organizations, including the Lions Club, the DeKalb Rotary Club and Kiwanis Club of Sycamore, according to the event’s official site.

The Sycamore Pumpkin Festival runs through through Oct. 27 in downtown Sycamore, 133 West State St. The event kicked off Saturday with Ghost Stories in the Park at the Sycamore Park Community Center. In addition to activities, demonstrations, photo booth and crafts, storyteller Phyllis Horst enchanted a crowd of festival-goers with blood-chilling ghost stories that would make even the most ghoulish of mortals shiver with fear. 

The pumpkin check-in kicked-off Wednesday’s festivities on the Courthouse Lawn. People submitting a pumpkin for the festival’s 58th Annual Sycamore Decorated Pumpkin Display checked in their eye-catching gourds. The display is sponsored by the Sycamore Lions club, which is dedicated to improving the quality of life for the handicapped, the poor, the sick and the aged, according to the Sycamore Lion Clubs website.

Jerome Perez, one of the directors for the event, said this is a huge part of the festivities, usually seeing 1,200 entries.

 “[It’s] a signature event [and] something that gets the whole town involved,”  Perez said. “The theme this year is Wild West Pumpkin Fest, which will contribute some very unique ideas from patrons.”

Each year, the theme for the festival is chosen from a batch of student submissions, with this year’s winner being Hannah Anderson, a first grader at Southeast Elementary School.

The event will feature two carnivals, numerous food and craft vendors, and will end with the Pumpkin Fest parade, led by the NIU Marching Band and Sycamore High School band.

“The Sycamore Pumpkin Parade is a really big event in the town of Sycamore,” marching band member Josette Heywood said. “As our band director, Thomas Bough, likes to say, almost 100,000 people come down to the little town of Sycamore to see this parade. It is such a thrilling experience to be apart of. We are one of probably 10 bands that take part in this parade and the other bands are all high school bands, so they get really excited when they see us coming up in our NIU uniforms.”

It’s Heywood’s third year in the Huskie Marching Band and her third year participating in the Pumpkin Fest Parade. The Marching Band marches in the parade every year, and it isn’t going to be stopping anytime soon, Heywood said. 

A full schedule of events can be found on the Pumpkin Fest website, along with the parade route and information about vendors.