Politics preempts Pumpkin Parade

By Nina Gougis

The streets of downtown Sycamore were transformed into a politically charged parade of local candidates and political party supporters during Sycamore’s Pumpkin Festival parade Sunday.

The two-hour parade culminated the 42nd annual Pumpkin Festival celebration and also featured colorful floats from dozens of non-profit organizations and local businesses.

There were a number of political floats, including an anti-Bush “Limbo for Peace” float and floats for the DeKalb County Democrats and Republicans.

DeKalb State’s Attorney Ron Matekaitis, D-DeKalb; Republican challenger Clay Campbell; State Rep. Bob Pritchard, R-Hinckley; his Democratic opponent Bob Brown; and Democratic state senate candidate Bruce Washington greeted spectators.

Lifelong Sycamore resident Tony Palmer has attended the parade for more than 20 years and said he enjoyed the various acts in the parade, but did not like the parade’s politically charged atmosphere.

“Personally, I think it’s a bit much, but it is that time of year,” he said.

The non-profit annual event included craft shows, a pie-eating contest and decorated pumpkin displays. The festival ran Wednesday through Sunday.

The festival began in 1956 when Sycamore resident Wally Thurow – also known as “Sycamore’s Mr. Pumpkin” – displayed a few decorated pumpkins in his front yard. The festival grew and was officially named six years later.

Since then, the celebration has drawn a crowd of more than 100,000 each year.

The festival has attracted so many residents and non-residents because it changes from year to year, said Jenny Thornton, general manager for the Antique Craft and Flea Market.

“The past managers and vendors are always inventing new things,” Thornton said. “They keep changing it and making it vibrant, and that’s what I think made it so successful.”

Others attributed the success to the loyalty of the fans. Beth Drake, Tails Humane Society’s director, said the festival has drawn a large crowd of loyal spectators who make it a yearly tradition.

“We think it’s great exposure for the non-profit [organizations],” Drake said. “And the fans have been very loyal. They’ve shown up even in the worst weather.”