Big-name entertainment. Athletic challenges. Feasting and celebration.

The Vicenza military community is turning back the sundial this month with a three-day HomeFront celebration that will try to bring back some of the flavor of the Roman Empire. There will be gladiators battling it out (though not to the death) over mud pits. Individuals and teams will compete in a series of grueling sporting events. And food and drink will flow between the various events and competitions.

The June 12-14 event also will boast several things the Romans didn’t have:

Country music (in the form of Lee Ann Womack), rap (from Master P and Lil Romeo) and not one, but two sets of professional cheerleaders.

Parts of Caserma Ederle have already been closed down so workers can start setting up. And signups are still under way for a series of team and individual events.

“We started planning in October,” said Jamie Zawadski, an action officer in the base’s morale, welfare and recreation department.

“It’s supposed to pay homage to our soldiers for the unbelievable work they did downrange and also for those who worked so hard on the home front,” Zawadski said.

Much of the base’s active-duty population spent most of the last year in Afghanistan. Though almost all the soldiers have been back for a few months, planners wanted to make sure they weren’t celebrating while some were still deployed.

The three-day event begins with the Warriors’ Challenge shortly after sunrise on June 12. Four-member teams will race for 40 kilometers using mountain bikes, kayaks and their feet. Every member of the team must complete the course, which is being kept a secret, and will not be limited to the base.

The next day starts off with a “Tin Man Triathlon” where competitors run 5 kilometers, bike for 15 kilometers and swim 150 meters. It’s an abbreviated version of a real triathlon. That’s followed by the Warriors’ Feast and awards ceremony. Performances by the Allied Band Naples and the Frankfurt Galaxy Cheerleaders cap the day.

June 14 — which is also the Army’s birthday — starts off with a formal ceremony, followed by volleyball and pugil stick tournaments in mud pits.

The volleyball tournament carries a double-elimination format, while the gladiators will try to knock each other into the pits using something resembling giant Q-tips.

“Clash of the Kin” follows. It features a family challenge where groups of three or four compete in a puzzle relay, board walk, sack race and tug of war; a scavenger hunt/trivia challenge; a hula hoop marathon and a run-and-shoot basketball competition.

Womack takes the stage at 7:30 p.m., followed by the Denver Broncos Cheerleaders, with the rappers finishing off the night and the event. The concerts are free to all military ID cardholders.

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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 almost 38 years.

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