SYCAMORE – Keegan Palm of Sycamore is going for a three-peat.
Palm, 17, has won Pick of the Patch the past two years in the Sycamore Lions Club pumpkin decorating contest, held during Sycamore Pumpkin Festival. This year’s celebration kicks off Wednesday, Oct. 23, and runs through Sunday, Oct. 27.
During the festival, the DeKalb County Courthouse lawn is covered in hundreds of decorated pumpkins.
Pick of the Patch is the highest honor awarded to a pumpkin display created by children ages 17 and younger while the President’s Award is the highest award for adults ages 18 and older.
Palm, the son of Carl and Shelley Palm of Sycamore, also has won five first-place awards over the years.
As he was painting pumpkins for this year’s display, Palm spoke to MidWeek reporter Katrina Milton about Pumpkin Fest and the work that goes into creating award-winning displays.
Milton: Have you always submitted pumpkins for the Sycamore Lions Club decorating contest?
Palm: I’ve always loved art, ever since I was little, and I’ve always been painting pumpkins for Pumpkin Fest. I painted my first pumpkin when I wasn’t even a year old. My mom said that there was more paint on me than on the pumpkin. Then, as I got older, we took field trips in school to the courthouse lawn.
Milton: Is Halloween your favorite holiday?
Palm: Yes, I love Halloween, and Pumpkin Fest has always been my favorite part of Halloween. We visit the courthouse lawn four or five times during Pumpkin Fest. We take our dog up there and spend a couple of hours looking around. I love “Hocus Pocus” and “The Nightmare Before Christmas.” I still go trick-or-treating, I love haunted hay and train rides. In our house, Halloween starts Sept. 1 and ends with Thanksgiving.
Milton: What’s the fun of painting pumpkins?
Palm: I’ve always been big into art, and painting pumpkins is something fun to do together with your family. I like having multiple pumpkins to create a structure. Two years ago, I had a haunted forest with demon squirrels and crows on the branches. Last year, I had a haunted monster house. Both won Pick of the Patch. If you’re younger than 18, you win Pick of the Patch, if you’re an adult, you win the President’s Award. Since I’m 17, this is my last chance to win Pick of the Patch. Next year, I’ll enter as an adult.
Milton: What is preparation like for your Pumpkin Fest submission?
Palm: I’m always thinking of design ideas and bouncing ideas off my mom. I actually had a different design idea for this year’s display up until a week ago. Around weeks before the deadline, I get supplies like paint and pumpkins. We visit different pumpkin patches for different pumpkins. I like the pumpkins that are odd or weird shapes. One week before, I sit down and plan and get to work. I work on my pumpkin display in my free time. I work on it all night long and am putting finishing touches on it right before I drop it off at the courthouse.
Milton: What has it been like to win first place awards and Pick of the Patch?
Palm: My sister McKenzie is one of my biggest inspirations. She won first place when I was younger, and I always wanted to win, too. I won first place a few times, but never Pick of the Patch. When I first won Pick of the Patch, I couldn’t believe it. Now I’ve won it the last two years. This is my last chance to win it before I turn 18. I’m excited and working really hard on my display this year.
Milton: Other than pumpkin-painting, what are some of your extracurricular activities?
Palm: I play three sports: soccer, bowling and track and field. I also play the violin in orchestra. I participate in Life Missions, am working on becoming an Eagle Scout in Boy Scout Troop 16 and I work at Giordano’s. I’m a senior at Sycamore High School, and once I graduate, I’d love to work in graphic design or art.
Milton: Do you have advice for other pumpkin artists?
Palm: Do whatever makes you happy. Be yourself and have fun with it and be creative. I love visiting the courthouse lawn and looking at everyone else’s pumpkins. I love seeing their creativity, designs that are out-of-the-box and original.