SYCAMORE – It was two weeks prior to the Sycamore Pumpkin Festival, and children were getting their hands dirty.
To clean, that is. More than 150 kids participated in Kids Work Day on Saturday in downtown Sycamore to help clean the community in preparation for the festival, which will be held Oct. 23-27.
DeKalb resident Danielle Frey, 8, said she was cleaning the Earth.
"It's important because if our Earth is covered in trash, people can get dirty, and it wouldn't be as clean as it is," she said.
Sycamore High School's Key Club, a youth service organization, helped organize the cleanup.
Every child who participated received a free T-shirt and a coupon to a local business.
Participants picked up trash in a 15-street area, focusing on the parade route, said Sycamore mayor Ken Mundy.
Mundy said he wasn't surprised by the large turnout.
"It's how we are," he said. "It defines Sycamore. It's gratifying so many young people came because they know Sycamore, and they want it to be clean. They're learning about service."
That's exactly the lesson that DeKalb resident Tracey Sosin, Danielle's mother, hopes her daughter learns.
Sosin said it's important her daughter learns to help the community.
"It's teaching her to be responsible and independent," she said.
Sycamore resident Tom Stamatakos would second that notion. He was with his two sons, ages 5 and 8.
Stamatakos said there wasn't as much trash as he expected there would be.
"We've picked up plenty of trash, but we really had to look for it," he said.
Volunteers had collected more than 20 trash bags about halfway through the cleanup effort.
Kathy Dombek, Key Club advisor, said they were fortunate the area was kept relatively clean.
"People do care," she said.
Local Boy Scout troops volunteered as well. Sycamore resident Elijah Herra, 7, of Cub Scout Pack 141, said he picked up a lot of cigarette butts and paper.
He said it was important to clean for the Sycamore Pumpkin Festival so that when tourists come to town, they don't view it as filthy.
"You need to clean up trash to keep Sycamore clean," Herra said. "Clean up other people's trash, and don't litter."
Sycamore resident Ben Hollendoner, 11, agrees.
"Cleaning up the community will help plants grow and the environment grow," he said.