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Longtime photographer named pumpkin parade grand marshal at the Pumpkin Festival in Barnesville

BARNESVILLE — The grand marshal of this year’s Giant Pumpkin Parade is Reed Tychonski, who has been photographing the Pumpkin Festival for more than four decades.

The parade steps off at 1 p.m. Sept. 25, making its way along Main Street through the downtown before turning north onto Chestnut Street. It includes numerous bands, floats, walking units and vehicles representing churches, schools, businesses and many other organizations.

A graduate of Barnesville High School, Belmont Technical College and Ohio University, Tychonski began his career as a radio announcer. Three days after graduating from BHS, Reed moved to Columbus and enrolled in a broadcasting school. In those days anyone wanting to be on the radio was required to have an FCC license. Upon attaining his, he was offered a job at a radio station in Seymour, Indiana.

After a couple of years in the Hoosier state, he returned home and enrolled at Belmont Tech, working weekends at WOMP radio. Associate degree in hand, he moved to Columbus and became manager of a Burger Chef restaurant next to the Northland Mall. He moved back to the Ohio Valley when he was offered a job as the assistant manager of a new Wendy’s restaurant being built in Bridgeport. In 1976 he enrolled at Ohio University, working on a degree in business education.

While at O.U. he started taking elective classes in fine art photography. His old teen league basketball coach Bill Davies learned of his interest, and when Tychonski returned home for his final quarter of school to do his student teaching at Union Local, under former Barnesville and Union Local football coach Bill Thomas, Davies asked him if he would be interested in taking a few photos for the community’s weekly newspaper.

Upon graduation in September 1979, he was offered a full-time job at the paper, and one of his first big jobs was doing a multi-page photo layout of the Pumpkin Festival. As fall rolled around, it was onto the gridiron for player pictures for football programs. Beallsville, Woodsfield, Shadyside, Bridgeport, Union Local, Buckeye Trail, Conotton Valley and Caldwell along with Barnesville were some of the schools Tychonski photographed. Of course, he photographed virtually all of the Shamrocks baseball, basketball and football team pictures for the next 35 years.

His sports photos included Bill Dowler’s OVAC championship gridders. He was on the mat in Ohio State’s St. John Arena when the Shamrocks won the state wrestling championship, and he was on the field in Canton, Ohio, when Brad Wilson’s diamond men competed for a state baseball title. He’s photographed the Pittsburgh Pirates, the Ohio State Buckeyes basketball and football team, and famous celebrities from Pete Rose to Bob Hope. He chased Arnold Schwarzenegger down a dark alley in Columbus when he really wanted information on Chris Dickerson. Dickerson was the first African-American to win the Mr. Olympia contest and a graduate of Olney Friends School in Barnesville.

His news photos included numerous fires and floods. He waded through waist-deep water in the middle of downtown Quaker City. He climbed to the top of the outside of the Barnesville municipal building to photograph construction of a new bell tower, but the highlight of his photojournalism exploits came when he won the Hooper Award for the Best Spot News Photography in the state at the Ohio State Newspaper Convention in Columbus. In the program the judges wrote, “One photographer deserves special mention: Reed Tychonski of the Barnesville Enterprise gave the best example of spot news coverage among the entries.”

His stint at the Enterprise ended when Bill and Jean Davies retired and sold the paper. But Tychonski remained in town photographing weddings, class reunions, preschools, Little League teams, and senior portraits. Tychonski’s portrait of barn painter Harley Warrick was on the cover photo of Grit magazine.

He created the first basketball programs sold at both Union Local and St. Clairsville high schools. For a number of years he was the official photographer of 4-H projects at the Belmont County Fair. That job involved spending afternoons in front of the auction barn photographing every type of livestock from cows and sheep to goats and chickens. Many late nights were spent at the hog pen trying to get a pig to smile (or at least look at the camera).

Tychonski was granted a photo pass to Jamboree In The Hills for 40 straight years, which resulted in hundreds of newspaper pictures of country music performers. Country Music magazine published many of his photos, including a full-page photo of Tim McGraw and a two-page spread of Grammy Award-winning duo Sugarland.

Former Pumpkin Festival President Eugene “Doc” Householder was responsible for Tychonski’s continued association with the festival. Householder called and asked if he would consider taking publicity photos of the festival. That was a couple of thousands pictures ago, counting newspapers and programs. His festival photos have also appeared in books and magazines, on restaurant walls and on internet sites. Willard Scott held up one of his photos on NBC’s Today Show, and a collection of his photos were put on display inside the Smithsonian Institute in Washington, D.C.

Tychonski also frequently contributes photos to be published in The Times Leader.

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