Statue of Wally 'Mr. Pumpkin' Thurow unveiled as Sycamore Pumpkin Festival gets underway

SYCAMORE – Craig Thurow is comforted knowing his dad is back at home in Sycamore.

Thurow watched as a lifesize statue of his father was unveiled Wednesday at the southwest corner of Somonauk and Elm streets in Sycamore. He said the statue would not have been possible without the support of the city of Sycamore and the people who live in it.

“[The statue] is just marvelous,” Craig Thurow said. “This is the greatest town in the world with the greatest festival in the world.”

Craig’s father, Wally “Mr. Pumpkin” Thurow, is credited with creating the Sycamore Pumpkin Festival, which is in its 53rd year and runs through Sunday. Thurow died in 2012.

The festival includes a parade, carnival, booths operated by nonprofit groups and a pumpkin decorating contest, in which pumpkins are displayed on the DeKalb County Courthouse lawn. This year’s theme is Pumpkin Inventions.

Thurow’s wife, Jan Thurow, traveled from her home in Louisiana to attend the unveiling with family members. She said Wally would have loved the statue.

She said even after the family moved to Louisiana, Wally made sure to never miss a festival, which started out with just a few decorated pumpkins on Thurow’s front lawn before teaming up with the Lions Club to create the annual event.

Thurow’s daughter-in-law, Dawn Thurow, said the statue simply looked lifelike.

“I swear, I can see the twinkle in his eye,” Dawn Thurow said.

After $65,000 was raised for the statue, $3,000 was left over and that will be put toward a Wally Thurow memorial scholarship, said Lions Club member Ed Kuhn. They hope to raise at least $7,000 more to create a permanent endowment so scholarships can be given annually, indefinitely. Kuhn said Thurow loved highlighting childrens’ creativity, and the scholarship is a way to ensure students can continue to be creative.

The unveiling of the statue was just the beginning to the opening day of events. After the unveiling, children went trick-or-treating at downtown businesses, then dropped off decorated pumpkins on the courthouse lawn.

Kimberly Shearer and her 5-year-old daughter Grace dropped off Grace’s pumpkin creation in the “Weird, Ugly and Scary” category. Three painted black pumpkins were brought together to make a spider, which took a couple of hours to make, they said. Grace chose to dress in costume as the character Elsa from the Disney movie “Frozen.”

“We always go to the carnival and parade,” Kimberly Shearer said. “Then we make sure to get candy apples from The Confectionary.”

The cake-cutting ceremony satisfied some sweet teeth during the opening day, as well. The cake, 8-foot by 8-foot, was donated by Hyvee.

During the ceremony, Marlyn Burkart, Sycamore resident and founder of Marlyn's Majorettes, was given a plaque for her 53 years of involvement in the parade. Her parade corps has marched in every parade. She is retiring the corps this year.

Bart Desch, Pumpkin Festival committee vice president, said Burkart has brought a certain “specialness” to the parade over the years, and her consistent presence will be missed.

“This feels like a family reunion,” Burkart said. “I am one of the luckiest ladies in the world today.”

The events continue through the weekend. Desch said the Sycamore Pumpkin Run 10K Road Race, which is Sunday, should have its largest number of participants, with more than 2,000 people expected. The parade Sunday begins at 1 p.m. and the route follows Somonauk, Elm, California, State and Main streets.

Jerry Malmassari, Pumpkin Festival committee president, looks forward to the days ahead, and many hope Wednesday’s sunny weather continues for the festivities, which Wally Thurow will be able to oversee, in a sense, from his new post on Somonauk Street.

“Welcome back, Mr. Pumpkin,” Malmassari said. “Welcome back.”