Mr. Pumpkin statue fundraising reaches fever pitch

SYCAMORE – About $18,000 stands in the way of establishing a life-size memorial of Wally Thurow in time for this year’s Sycamore Pumpkin Festival.

The Wally Thurow Tribute Committee is a little less than 30 percent shy of its fundraising goal to erect a life-size bronze statue of Thurow, affectionately known as Mr. Pumpkin, who died in 2012. Thurow was the founder of the Sycamore Pumpkin Festival, which has been a citywide mainstay since 1962.

“It’s one way to commemorate who Wally was and what the festival has become,” committee Treasurer Denis Jagodzinski said.

Thurow unofficially started the celebration in 1956 when he displayed some decorated pumpkins in his front yard around Halloween. Through the efforts of Thurow and the Sycamore Lions Club, the Pumpkin Festival became official in 1962.

The annual fall festival serves as a fundraising event for dozens of nonprofits and includes a carnival, house walk and display of pumpkins. It concludes with a parade through downtown. Committee members believe the placement is fitting because the parade will pass by that corner every year.

“He’ll basically be looking down the parade route,” Jagodzinski said.

The committee’s goal is to raise $65,000 to build the statue of Thurow as he is remembered, standing next to his trademark high-wheel bicycle in top hat. The city of Sycamore has endorsed the statue’s permanent location at the northwest corner of Somonauk and Elm streets in Sycamore.

Committee members would like the statue to be in place in time for this year’s festival and hope to hit the fundraising goal by Sept. 1.

Elizabeth-based artist David Seagraves, who created an 18-inch scale model of the statue and will mold the clay for the actual statue, said it will take about five months for it to be complete with bronze casting. He expects to start the clay mold in April. When it is finished, the statue will be a little less than six feet tall and weigh around 450 pounds.

The real statue also will be more detailed and true to Mr. Pumpkin than the small one.

“His bike will pretty much look like the one he had with a disc in the front tire that says Mr. Pumpkin,” Seagraves said.

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