I love Main Streets. Throughout our journey, I seem to fall for those towns with thriving Main Streets, where the community comes alive. Where the library and town halls are connected by quaint coffee shops, irresistible book stores, and eclectic retailers. On our way back to Sycamore from Chicago we avoided the toll roads and took Rt. 64 through many scenic downtown streets and I applaud Illinois for their preservation of what seems to be a fading sight in many communities. Should you ever desire to spend time on the quintessential Main Street, however, I suggest you go to Sycamore, Illinois. And, I strongly recommend you go during Pumpkin Festival.
The courthouse, a historical landmark that sits in the middle of town, presides over the historic district while its beautifully manicured lawn serves as a central gathering place in town. To its left, sits the library, full of activity. And, to the right, occupying a few blocks, are the various shops, eating establishments, including a delicious bakery, and an old movie theater. On the corner, across from the courthouse and just to add to the town’s authentic charm, is a popcorn stand, serving up the best caramel corn I have ever tasted. Can you picture it? Now add to that mental picture trees full of brightly colored leaves, crisp Autumn air, and children running around in costumes collecting candy from the local store owners and you are at Sycamore’s Pumpkin Festival!
We had an incredibly delightful week in this near-perfect town and it was only by coincidence that we were there during this ever-popular Autumn event, which I heard described by one local as, “It’s like Thanksgiving, but bigger.” When Chris learned that it was Pumpkin Festival week, his eyes lit up like that of an eight-year old boy ready to carve his own pumpkin to proudly place on display.
For our first day back in the town, we spent the day at the local library, where Chris was able to do his work while also enjoying a lively environment, unlike his typical work day spent in complete solitude with my occasional interruption. The library offered a delightful change of scenery and a glimpse into the community. We found a perfect spot next to a window overlooking the courthouse lawn where we could observe the busy preparations outside in anticipation of the evening’s big events.
Once Chris finished work, we walked over to the courthouse and watched kids in costumes (and some adults, too) bring their best decorated pumpkin to showcase on the lawn. This year, it appeared to be a safari theme, and we saw pumpkins decorated as elephants, lions, monkeys, giraffes, and every other animal imaginable. On display were scary pumpkins, happy pumpkins, strange pumpkins, and even a really, really large pumpkin. It was a pretty impressive collection, although Chris claims he could have put all of them to shame. We stood and observed the kids posing proudly next to their pumpkins as their equally proud parents snapped a picture. Knowing Chris, next year I may be taking a picture of him posing proudly next to his own decorated pumpkin!
We continued on past the courthouse to the local shops and restaurants. The street was packed with trick-or-treaters and we decided to briefly escape the chaos of hundreds of happy children and grab a bite to eat at a delicious Mexican restaurant where you can watch tortillas being made in the window. From our cozy table, we were entertained by the variety of costumes and the children ecstatic to get their sugar fix. After dinner , we completed our walk around town, making another necessary stop at the local bakery for a freshly baked, Halloween-decorated cookie, and then made our way home. It was a lovely day.
Unfortunately, the rain found us again and for the remainder of the week, we stayed dry inside our comfy Airstream, and listened to the sound of the rain drops thumping on our aluminum home. We left only a few times to make crucial trips to the local market and Pizza Villa, Chris’ favorite pizza place near town. By Saturday, we were scheduled to leave the resort. Thankfully, the rain had stopped and blue skies were making an appearance again, just in time for the Festival’s weekend events. But, our plan was to move on that day.
We took one last drive through town, noting the addition of the carnival rides and food stands. The Festival was in full swing. We had mixed feelings about leaving the town while all of this fun was taking place. The biggest event, the parade, had yet to occur. But, having already hitched up, the decision to leave had been made…or had it?