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About 15 miles southeast of Aviano Air Base, the Italian city of Sacile has had a long association with the American military community.

Dozens of Americans live in the city and, until recently, it housed the hospital where hundreds of American mothers gave birth.

But the city has had a much longer association with a different kind of aviator ... as a festival this weekend shows.

Sacile will hold its 734th annual bird festival, with an array of events scheduled for Saturday and Sunday.

About 100,000 visitors (of the human kind) are expected to attend, making it one of the biggest events in the Friuli-Venezia Giuli region.

“We think it is one of the oldest in Italy,” said Marisa Poletto, who works in the local tourist office.

She said the festival has been held every year since its inception, with single exceptions in the 1300s and 1500s.

One year, it was cancelled due to the plague.

Another year, armies from France, Austria and Italy were fighting around the city.

Activities begin early each day. Saturday, the annual poultry exhibit starts at 8:30 a.m.

Food booths and arts and crafts shops open later in the day, which includes a bird call contest at 9:30 p.m.

Various concerts and dances last into Sunday morning.

Some might choose to keep dancing to stay awake for the premier event on Sunday.

Dozens of birds will greet the rising of the sun with a song contest of their own.

Poletto said entrants are expected to come from across Italy. Judges will determine the top bird vocalists.

The 38th annual national dog exhibition starts at 10 a.m. Sunday, followed by a whistling competition and honey tasting.

Festivities are capped by a fireworks display at 11 p.m.

Most events will be held in and around the main squares of the city.

A daily admission price of 3 euros pays for visitors to see all the events.

Food and drink — except for a few wine-tasting events — is extra.

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 almost 38 years.
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