Sycamore festival theme winner readies for pumpkins around the world

North Grove Elementary student Samuel Schwartz wins 2024 Sycamore Pumpkin Festival theme contest

(From left) Jaxson Ruby, a first-grader from South Prairie Elementary, Samuel Schwartz, a fourth-grader from North Grove Elementary and Leo Berek, a fourth-grader from West Elementary pose after they were named finalists of the 2024 Sycamore Pumpkin Festival theme contest outside of the DeKalb County Courthouse in Sycamore on May 15, 2024.

SYCAMORE – The 2024 Sycamore Pumpkin Festival is going global thanks to a winning theme chosen by a North Grove Elementary School fourth grader.

Samuel Schwartz was declared the 2024 Sycamore Pumpkin Festival theme contest winner for his idea “Pumpkins Around the World.” Schwartz was recognized this week on the steps of the DeKalb County Courthouse by organizers of the annual fall affair.

“A lot of people would like things around the world,” Schwartz said. “Like making a Paris out of a pumpkin.”

Schwartz, 9, also received $50 for his top award. As part of his accolades, he’ll get to help cut the giant ceremonial cake on the festival’s opening day and also ride as grand marshal in the Pumpkin Parade. This year’s festival will run from Oct. 23 through Oct. 27.

A lot of people would like things around the world. Like making a Paris out of a pumpkin.”

—  Samuel Schwartz, 9

Sycamore Pumpkin Festival Theme Contest Committee Chair Brandi Voigt said the committee received 75 theme contest entries from seven area schools. Entries were submitted from North, North Grove, South Prairie, Southeast and West elementary schools, as well as Corner Stone Christian Academy, St. Mary’s Catholic School and home-schooled students.

Of the more than six dozen entries, 10 ideas were selected as finalists for the theme contest. The essay contest is sponsored by the Sycamore Kiwanis Club.

Leo Berek, a fourth grader from West Elementary, and Jaxson Ruby, a first grader from South Prairie Elementary, were named semifinalists, winning $25 each for their efforts. They also will be featured in Sycamore Pumpkin Festival activities in October.

Pumpkin Festival Committee President Cole Regnery said the submitted themes were, “as always, fantastic.”

“The students here just do such a great job. ‘Pumpkins Around the World’ was the winner, but it wasn’t by a wide margin,” Regnery said. “All the honorable mentions, and everybody else who showed up today and everybody who didn’t show up today, had great themes.”

Schwartz’s father, Nathan Schwartz, who also is the DeKalb County engineer, said he is proud of his son, and his family’s excitement for the festival has only grown.

“We come up with so many great ideas during the year, particularly right after Pumpkin Fest, of what we want to do next year, and then in the month leading up to Pumpkin Fest we forget all of those,” Schwartz said. “We’re always struggling, so we’re really excited that Sam got to have his topic selected because we actually started an idea box so we won’t forget those. So we might have half a dozen pumpkins out there this year.”

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