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Sycamore's Pumpkin Fest wraps up

Members of the Northern Illinois University Color Guard marched in the Sycamore Pumpkin Festival parade Sunday.
Members of the Northern Illinois University Color Guard marched in the Sycamore Pumpkin Festival parade Sunday.

SYCAMORE – Multitudes of families came out to watch the Sycamore Pumpkin Festival Parade as the five-day fest came to a close Sunday.

Jerry Malmassari, the president of the committee, could not give an official estimate on how many people came out to the festival, but said when he was riding in the tail end of the parade, he saw the parade route lined with people six or seven bodies deep in certain sections.

“That indicates a good crowd to me,” Malmassari said. “[The parade] went very smoothly.”

Judy Weiss and her extended family sat across the street from the DeKalb County Courthouse to watch her daughter, Jenna, play the flute in the Sandwich Middle School’s marching band in the parade.

“This is going to be her first time watching in the parade,” Weiss said, adding that she felt proud. “She’d rather be on this side, she already told me.”

But Weiss and her extended family said she would have been out at the festival anyway, as they have done so for years with their grandparents.

For Michael Donegan and his daughter, Isabella, it was their first time to the Sycamore Pumpkin Festival. Donegan said he was looking forward to trying some of the food at the festival while seeing if Isabella wanted to ride some of the amusement rides.

For Trish Lindo, her granddaughter’s arrival was the impetus to visit the festival again.

“This is the best pumpkin fest around. It has years of tradition,” Lindo said. “You’ve got the pumpkins. ... Last time I was here, Wally [Thurow] was here riding his bike.”

This year’s festival marked the first year without Thurow, who created the event that just celebrated its 51st anniversary. Thurow passed away in February.

He was honored during the ceremonial cake-cutting ceremony Wednesday, and a car featuring his name and traditional penny-farthing bicycle was one of the first vehicles in Sunday’s parade.

Malmassari, whose family has been involved with the pumpkin festival since almost the beginning, said the festival started as a way for nonprofit organizations to earn income.

“Everybody gets involved, no matter what your interest is,” Malmassari said.

Barbara Koca was volunteering with the DeKalb County Hospice by selling homemade cookies along the parade’s Main Street route.

That money will go to a sister hospice in South Africa. Koca said despite the regional and cultural differences, “it’s the same kind of thing people in DeKalb County go through.”

Malmassari said it’s too early yet to see whether nonprofits at the festival were successful in their fundraising efforts, but said he’s heard good things.

“We know some groups were selling out,” Malmassari said.

Malmassari said nonprofits will continue to be a focus in future iterations of the festival, even as they try out new ideas. So as long as people come out, there will be a pumpkin festival, he added.

“Every community has something that bonds it together,” Malmassari said.

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