Family has 26-year tradition of taking old-timey fair photo

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Since 1994, every photo is captured with the same heart, but a slightly different look.

This Tampa family has a one-of-a-kind tradition - taking a Western-style photo at the Florida State Fair.

The Valdez family has suited up and posed for 26 years. Those pictures now chronicle the children growing into men. 

While some families prioritize Christmas or Thanksgiving to come together no matter what, John Valdez and his sons David, 33, and Michael, 24, make sure the opening day of the state fair is one day they don’t miss.

“The first photo was taken when my mom was pregnant with my brother, who's now 24. My dad just wanted to get me out of the house because my mom was really, really pregnant and Michael was going to be born the next month,” said David Valdez.

“Sometimes we plan as far as three months in advance the pose that we're going to do. I start growing the beard out in November,” said Michael Valdez.

Some of the photos even nod to life events for the brothers.

“I was teaching at the university level in Indiana and my brother was graduating with his masters, so I was giving him a diploma that year,” said David Valdez, describing one photo.

John Valdez said he always enjoyed coming to the fair with the family, and just decided to take the photo one day. After two years, he said it became a tradition.

“You get to some of these years when the boys are 12, 13 years old, 14 and they may not want to do stuff with dad. It didn't matter - stick them in the car, bring them to the fair, take the picture,” said John Valdez.

They’ve had to endure bad weather, work issues and more to make the photo happen every year.

“We had to fly David in from Indiana for a couple of years. I just flew in from Minnesota yesterday,” said Michael Valdez. His brother David added, “We've actually hired a private pilot to come get [Michael] one year. You've taken a bus one year.”

As the photographer captures 2019’s memory, it’s more than just an image. It’s a cherished moment for a father and his sons.

“This is our 26th picture. We are going to continue to do it for as long as I'm alive and probably I'll be the first to go and they have promised me that they will come back one more year, take a picture with an empty black hat in the middle and that'll be it,” said John Valdez.

“Knowing that we have this amazing time with our father is obviously something that we will never forget,” said David Valdez.

John’s wife and the brothers’ mom has been there for every photo, and she said it’s the boys’ tradition so she just enjoys being a part of it behind the scenes.

All of the photos hang up on a wall in their house, and now they have to find a frame for this year’s picture.