SYCAMORE – Jerry Malmassari is looking forward to seeing children drop off their decorated pumpkins on the courthouse lawn in October, tilting and turning them in the grass until the pumpkins look perfect.
Malmassari, president of the Pumpkin Festival committee, hopes people are starting to think about their entries now, which will be displayed and judged during the festival, which runs Oct. 22 to 26.
“It’s getting to be that time again,” Malmassari said. “We want a humongous display of pumpkin designs to look at.”
This year’s 53rd annual festival hopefully will be the first year a lifesize statue of Wally “Mr. Pumpkin” Thurow will be on display, Malmassari said. The statue is being cast after committee members reached their $65,000 fundraising goal. Thurow, founder and face of the festival since 1962, died in 2012. The statue will feature Thurow in his top hat, riding his signature high-wheel bicycle.
Replicas of the statue have passed committee members’ inspections, making sure Mr. Pumpkin’s smile and coat are just right.
“There are certain characteristics that you see in an individual that you want to get right,” Malmassari said. “We’ve done tweaks to make sure [the statue] is as lifelike as possible.”
Malmassari hopes this year’s festival also represents a longstanding relationship with Northern Illinois University. Sean Frazier, NIU associate vice president and athletic director, has been selected as the parade’s grand marshal. Frazier represents the area’s tie to Northern Illinois University, parade chairman Jerome Perez said.
“We thought it was a good opportunity, since Sean is new to the community, to have him come and be a part of the parade and continue that longstanding relationship with NIU,” Perez said.
The schedule for the rest of the festival will not be finalized until mid-September, Perez said, as vendors and parade participants are still able to apply to be part of the celebration.
The festival board also has selected Brian Bemis Automotive Group as its Friend of the Festival, a hat tip to a person or organization which has helped the Pumpkin Fest succeed. Perez said Brian Bemis Automotive Group has loaned many cars to the parade for at least 15 years, providing rides for the grand marshal, Friend of the Festival, theme contest winners and more.
“We’re really hoping for good weather,” Perez said. “It’s seems like fall is already here, so it may be winter before Pumpkin Fest gets here.”
For more information about 2014 Pumpkin Festival visit sycamorepumpkinfestival.com
Sean Frazier, parade grand marshal
• Northern Illinois University associate vice president and director of athletics
• Started at NIU July 2013
• Most recently was deputy athletic director at the University of Wisconsin
• Former football student-athlete at the University of Alabama
• More info: niuhuskies.com
Brian Bemis Automotive Group, friend of the festival
• Has provided cars for 15-plus years for the parade’s grand marshal, Friend of the Festival, theme contest winners, and Wally “Mr. Pumpkin” Thurow
• 2014 is its 30th anniversary, in Sycamore area since 1984
• Locations in Sycamore, DeKalb and Oregon
• More info: brianbemis.com