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Pumpkin enthusiasts pack streets

Published: Sunday, Oct. 28, 2007 12:00 a.m. CDT
Sycamore Lions Club members (from left) Rick Poe, Ed Kuhn, Don Stump and Jerome Perez roll the winner of the largest pumpkin contest, a 451-pound specimen from Heidi Edwards of South Beloit, back onto its resting place after weighing it on Saturday morning at the Sycamore Pumpkin Festival. Chronicle photo ERIC SUMBERG

SYCAMORE - Kay Sapita traveled from Michigan this weekend to attend her first ever Pumpkin Festival with her three grandchildren. &#8220We've heard wonderful things about it, and we're here for the whole weekend,” Sapita said, while waving to her 4-year-old grandson, Robbie, as he flew by on the Dragon Wagon carnival ride. Saturday's clear skies and 50-degree weather drew hundreds of orange-and-black dressed Pumpkin Fest enthusiasts like Sapita and her grandchildren to the streets of downtown Sycamore. The 46th annual Sycamore Pumpkin Festival began Wednes-day with a decorated pumpkin display and giant cake-cutting ceremony on the courthouse lawn. The event originated when Wally Thurow, who is known as &#8220Mr. Pumpkin,” displayed a few decorated pumpkins on his front lawn, according to the Pumpkin Festival Web site. In 1962, &#8220Mr. Pumpkin” and the Sycamore Lions Club helped the festival become an official celebration. The courthouse lawn is the center of activities, including the display of decorated pumpkins. But arts and crafts shows, a pie-eating a contest, a carnival, a fair and Sunday's parade draw families from throughout the country. Throughout the festival, food, snacks and souvenirs are available at stands operated by various DeKalb County nonprofit organizations. The Regan family of Sycamore braved the rain Friday night to fulfill their annual tradition of walking through downtown Sycamore in search of homemade caramel apples. &#8220It was fun because it was pouring and we could walk around with our umbrellas,” said Linda Regan, mother of Hannah and Riley Regan. Attending the carnival with the Regans on Saturday were their two dogs, Bruiser and Lady. Linda Regan monitored the pups as her daughters rode the carnival rides. &#8220I had to close my eyes on that one,” 10-year-old Riley said, pointing at the high-speed ride The Predator. &#8220I was almost going to cry.” After their carnival-filled day, the girls planned to head home and return Sunday for the parade, they said. Many families seem to make the event a weekend-long celebration, and the large Pumpkin Fest crowds can mean increased sales for local businesses. &#8220Definitely any function that brings people downtown is good for business,” said Sheri Prutton, co-owner of Sycamore Winery. &#8220I love it. It's so much fun and I like the people.” To give those attending Pumpkin Fest an opportunity to sit and relax, Prutton, 36, was selling pumpkin-flavored wine by the glass. &#8220We just received our license to serve by the glass about two weeks ago,” she said. &#8220We tried to push the process along for Pumpkin Fest.” About 40 cases of the seasonal wine were purchased to prepare for the festivities, almost all of which were sold by Saturday afternoon, Prutton said. Among those sipping wine and enjoying the peace and quiet in the winery were Dennis and Lorelei Bell of DeKalb. Although they knew of the pumpkin-flavored wine, they opted for glasses of raspberry and white zinfandel instead. The two were thankful for the opportunity to relax amid the Sycamore activities, they said. &#8220We just wanted to come in and have a glass of wine,” Dennis Bell said. &#8220I've been coming to Pumpkin Fest since I was a kid, so probably for about 40 years. It's really one of the last outdoor activities that you can do.” Carrie Frillman can be reached at cfrillman@daily-chronicle.com.

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