TAMPA, Fla. — The Valdez family from Tampa has made it a tradition to go to the Florida State Fair every year for the last 30 years, which they say is an important way to remember good times together.
If a picture is worth a thousand words, the Valdez family has tens of thousands of stories to tell.
The first picture and story show just the father John and his son David posing in an old western style photo taken at a booth during their visit to the fair in 1994.
"My mom was very, very pregnant in February of 1994 and so she just wanted to get me out of the house," said David.
This week the family sat down to remember what happened on that 1994 fair visit.
"We got to the fair and my dad said ‘Hey, let's take this picture’ thinking that it would be a one and done sort of thing,” David explained. “Well, 1995 comes around, we do it again, 1996 comes around, we do it a third time. And here we are 30 years later."
That is 30 years of a family tradition.
Brothers David and Michael and their father John now have documented memories for every visit.
Many of the pictures show them in old western style outfits.
Many of the pictures show them as bandits and lawmen in a western style saloon.
Other pictures are still in a nostalgic setting but mimic what was happening to the family at the time.
From David receiving a diploma in a graduation year to years later during a pandemic, the family really jumped at getting dressed and playing the characters shown in the photos.
Not even COVID-19 got in the way.
In fact, David said taking the pictures never got old.
"It's never burdensome, it's actually the opposite,” he said. “It's something that we look forward to."
This week, Michael flew in from Minnesota where he lives.
Over the years, he said it has not been easy to get to the fair, but they make it work.
"Every year since I graduated high school, it's been hard getting home," Michael said.
Without this yearly event, they would be robbed of a wonderful memory.
"If we didn't do it, it would feel like something was missing," David said.
"Going back and seeing yourself grow up in such a cadence is always emotional," said Michael.
For dad, it is an experience he gets to live out with his sons about the few memories he had with his father.
"The fair gives me really good memories,” said John. “My father passed when I was very, very young and a couple of the only memories that I have of him was the fair."
The story here of a family's commitment to themselves and a gift they will always have to look back on.