Milan Homola Timbers540
(Timbers.com)

Axe Rewind: Milan Homola and daughter Ariana helped set the tone for Fan Axe photos in 2010

PORTLAND, Ore. - The photo immediately grabs your attention.

A young girl, clad in a bright pink tutu and wearing soccer cleats, sits perched on her father's shoulder and clutches an ax in her right hand. The pair look straight ahead into the camera, neither one betraying any emotion.

But as Milan Homola, the father in the photo, explains it, the story behind the picture was much more spontaneous than the final photo would suggest.

Having arrived early for the photo shoot, Homola and his daughter Ariana went to a Pioneer Courthouse Square cafe to practice their best "no pity" faces over hot chocolate. But when the time came for her to unleash her no pity face on the world, Ariana tensed up.

"That really wasn't the look of what we had practiced," Homola explained. "That was a mix of the no pity look with complete embarrassment. You get this kind of halfway [expression]: she's trying to do what she practiced with her dad, but she's also a super shy girl in front of this line of people that's staring at everyone getting their pictures taken."

As for the pink tutu, the credit for Ariana's outfit belongs to her mother, Tara, who felt that the young girl's gymnastics attire provided the perfect contrast to other harder-edged images.

"It was my wife's idea to have her wear something really girly," Homola said. "I think they told us that there would be props. We knew there'd be an ax, so the attitude was no pity, kind of that hard, nasty look."

Even Ariana's soccer cleats were a last second decision. Homola had brought them along, but he debated whether or not to put them on his daughter's feet. At the urging of his fellow Timbers fans in line, Homola decided to leave the cleats on.

After a few snaps of the photographer's shutter, the father daughter pair were already out the door. Despite the rush, the final photo, which went up on Facebook only hours later, astonished Homola.

"I was shocked," he said. "You know, you have pictures taken all the time. You take your own pictures. It's like one in a million that you look at it and everything's just perfect."


Fan-voted billboard in 2011.

Timbers fans agreed. The photo, which was one of the very first to go up online, became the runaway winner of the We Are Timbers fan billboard contest in 2011, with over 1,300 Facebook likes. Homola and his daughter helped set the template for the style of fan photos that followed.

The picture even made them local celebrities.

"We were being recognized all over the place," he said. "We went up to Seattle for one of the preseason games and people knew us right away. I would walk down the street with Ariana and people would know who we were, so it was kind of that fun five minutes of fame thing."

A Timbers season ticket holder since coming off the wait list in 2012, father and daughter still find time to watch the Timbers together.

"She loves Timber Joey," Homola said. "That's actually her favorite."

Homola, who is currently the director of Portland-based non-profit Compassion Connect, believes that the Timbers have done an incredible job of integrating into the community and fostering an atmosphere that reflects the city of Portland.

"It feels like you're supporting, not only an underdog, but an organization and a sport that's doing it right."

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