AVIANO AIR BASE, Italy — Americans and Italians are set to gather for the fifth straight year next weekend to celebrate the ties between the local population and U.S. military.

The Italian-American Friendship Fest, sponsored by the Honorary Squadron Commanders Association, will be held Sunday in the Visinai sports area northwest of downtown Aviano. It’ll be the first time the city has hosted the event, which has been held in San Quirino every other year.

Luisa Merlo, an Italian who works at the base public affairs office, said 2,000 to 3,000 people are expected to attend.

“It depends if it rains or not,” she said.

Highlights include a ceremony honoring those killed in the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks in New York, Pennsylvania and Arlington, Va., and firefighters around the world who have lost their lives in the line of duty.

Both Italian and American firefighters will attend, along with several Italian dignitaries, including Ettore Rosato, the undersecretary of the Interior. The ceremony is scheduled from 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.

After that, a free lunch will be provided by local Alpini (mountain troops) associations. Locally produced food and wine also will be offered until the event ends at 6 p.m.

The day’s events start at 9 a.m. with a variety of sports activities, including a 7-kilometer walk/run. There’s also basketball, beach volleyball, soccer and archery.

Horses will be available for kids to ride and a clown and inflatable castle also are planned. Italian bands and dance groups are set to perform from 10 a.m. until the awards ceremony at 6 p.m.

All Americans and Italians who live in surrounding communities are invited.

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Kent has filled numerous roles at Stars and Stripes including: copy editor, news editor, desk editor, reporter/photographer, web editor and overseas sports editor. Based at Aviano Air Base, Italy, he’s been TDY to countries such as Afghanistan Iraq, Kosovo and Bosnia. Born in California, he’s a 1988 graduate of Humboldt State University and has been a journalist for 40 years.

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