Pumpkin Fest combines Halloween, science lab

By Arthur Aumann

Science is reinventing Halloween at the 53rd annual Pumpkin Festival, which kicks off Oct. 22.

The five-day festival, themed Pumpkin Inventions, takes place throughout downtown Sycamore and includes food stands, pumpkin displays and a Saturday performance by the South Shore Drill Team.

There will also be souvenirs and activities available, including pie-eating contests, craft shows and a kiddie carnival provided by more than 30 local vendors. Sunday will include a 90-minute parade at 1 p.m.

“The vendors are all DeKalb county non-profit groups,” Malmassari said. “It helps instill a stronger sense of community.”

NIU will lend a hand in the festival 4 p.m. Oct. 22 through its STEM Outreach program and haunted physics lab in Sycamore’s Midwest Museum of Natural History, 425 W. State St. The lab will have dark room exhibits, optical illusions and a Tesla coil.

“The overreaching goal is to increase science literacy and awareness through young people and make them aware of a variety of careers in science,” said STEM Outreach associate Jeremy Benson.

There is entertainment for people of all ages during the five-day event.

“I’m excited to go and see all the pumpkins decorated,” said Kaitlyn Otten, junior public health major. “I also can’t wait to try some of the fall-time food that you only get to eat once a year.”

The Pumpkin Festival started in 1956 when local man Wally Thurow displayed decorated pumpkins on his front lawn, eventually earning him the moniker Mr. Pumpkin, said Jerry Malmassari, Sycamore Pumpkin Festival president. Soon after, the festival evolved into a celebration of Sycamore that draws people from across the country. The fest features activities and fundraising while educating attendees on Sycamore’s past.

The opening festivities also includes the unveiling of a statue of Thurow 4 p.m. Oct. 22 on the corner of Somonauk Road and Elm Street. The unveiling will be followed by a cake-cutting ceremony.