The Sycamore Pumpkin Festival kicks off this week. It will be a bittersweet start to the festival's 51st year. This is the first year since the death of the Festival's founder, Wally Thurow, affectionately known as "Mr. Pumpkin." Sycamore author Tom Oestreicher has written a biography of Thurow and the festival. The book is called Mr. Pumpkin & The Sycamore Pumpkin Festival: A 50 Year History.
WNIJ's Jenna Dooley spoke with Oestreicher about the new book. (Audio above)
The release of the book coincides with the start of the annual Sycamore Pumpkin Festival.
"I think that Sycamore and this festival are intertwined. You can't have one without the other."
- Tom Oestreicher
Oestreicher says that's in large part to the efforts of Wally Thurow, who he says was a natural promoter and helped make the festival a popular destination each October. Thurow began decorating his lawn in DeKalb in the 1950's with pumpkins.
When he moved to Sycamore, he introduced the idea to the local Lion's Club. It grew from there. During the annual event, Thurow was often seen wearing a black top hat and like to ride a three-wheeled bicycle.
"He always had a smile. He dearly loved this season."
- Tom Oestreicher
Thurow and his wife moved out of the area in 1970, but they traveled back to Sycamore each year for the pumpkin festival. He died from injuries sustained in a bicycle accident in Louisiana on February 3, 2012.
History of the Festival
1956- Wally Thurow displays a few decorated pumpkins on his front lawn in Dekalb
1962- After moving to Sycamore, Thurow and the Sycamore Lions Club make the Sycamore Pumpkin Festival an official celebration
1964- Thurow first appears on Chicago television stations to promote the event, including "Bozo's Circus"
1974- Susan Ford, daughter of President Gerald Ford, walks the parade route
1983- Sycamore celebrates its 125th anniversary with events at the festival
1986- Festival marks its 25th anniversary
2012- At the age of 84, Thurow dies from injuries sustained in a bicycle accident in Slidell, Louisiana