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Italy’s feathered guardsmen occupy Pordenone for weekend fest

A banner reading "Welcome Alpini," hangs over a restaurant in Ranzano, Italy. The province of Pordenone, which includes Aviano Air Base, is expecting about 400,000 people to take part in the annual gathering of the country's mountain troops, known for their feathered green hats.

It’s not Carnevale in Venice, but the crowds may be as thick this weekend in Pordenone, a city of 50,000 near Aviano Air Base, when hundreds of thousands of visitors gather wearing the feathered green hats of the Alpini mountain infantry troops.

The Alpini, similar to the U.S. National Guard, hold an annual gathering of current and former members. This year’s — the 87th — will be the first held in Pordenone. It runs from Friday to Sunday.

As evidenced by the thousands of Italian flags flying around the province for the past few weeks, other towns are participating as well, with concerts Friday and Saturday, and even the air base will host tours for Alpini visitors.

But the main event in Pordenone is a daylong parade on Sunday. The march, expected to involve 75,000 people with more lined along the route, starts at 9 a.m. on the SS-13 near the Electrolux facility and is expected to end about 8:30 p.m. at the city fairgrounds. Active troops, dignitaries and chapters of retirees from countries around the world — including at least one from the United States — are scheduled to participate.

The downtown area of Pordenone will be closed to traffic from noon on May 8 through May 11, and the base population is being told to expect heavy traffic and crowds at events around the city. The city’s hospital should remain accessible with the brief exception of a parade Friday morning that starts at the hospital and finishes at City Hall.

An exhibit featuring military equipment will be on display at Piazza Galvani throughout the weekend. Most of the events are free and open to the public. A program of events is available (in Italian) at http://www.adunataalpini-pordenone2014.it/programma.

harris.kent@stripes.com

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