SYCAMORE – Brian Bickner grew up in Sycamore, entering decorated pumpkins in the Sycamore Lions’ Pumpkin Festival contest every year.
Today, Bickner said he is enjoying the festival from a different perspective: through the eyes of his three daughters, Ava, Callie and Brooklyn. The coach of the DeKalb County Swim Team at the Kishwaukee Family YMCA said he “didn’t have to think about it at all” when the Pumpkin Festival Committee asked him to serve as this year’s parade grand marshal.
“I know how big a deal [the festival] is to the community and was to me as a kid,” he said. “It really means a lot. It’s a great honor to be asked by the committee to be the grand marshal.”
As a member of the Sycamore Lions Club, Bickner helps to organize the decorated pumpkin contest, sell raffle tickets and work at the Lions’ food trailer at the festival.
“We look for someone who is an outstanding citizen in the community,” festival committee member Jerome Perez said. “Brian’s done a lot of good things. He’s gotten a lot of his swimmers scholarships. He’s made a good impact on the community.”
As a youth, Bickner swam for 11 years with the DeKalb County swim team and qualified three times for nationals. Nineteen years ago, he returned to Sycamore from Michigan to coach the team. According to a Pumpkin Festival news release, in that time, the team has grown from 67 swimmers to more than 180. Forty-two of Bickner’s former swimmers have earned scholarships to swim at the college level.
“One of the reasons he was chosen was because of his success with the swim team,” Perez said.
Under Bickner’s guidance, the team has won three boys state championships, three girls state championships and one combined state championship. According to the release, it has won 18 conference championships, and 23 Illinois/Missouri Area State Age Group Team Championships. The team has had 78 YMCA national qualifiers, three national champions, 37 All-Americans, 119 state champions, and one Deaf Olympic Games qualifier, who won three gold and one bronze medal in the 2004 Deaf Summer Olympics.