Players from the 31st Fighter Wing and the local community play a game of basketball during the Italian-American Friendship Festival Sept. 10 in Maniago, Italy. (U.S. Air Force photo/2nd Lt. Joseph Alonso)
Aviano Air Base firefighters and Italian community leaders gather during a 9/11 commemoration Sept. 10 at the Italian-American Friendship Festival in Maniago, Italy. (U.S. Air Force photo/2nd Lt. Joseph Alonso)
Brig. Gen. Scott Zobrist, 31st Fighter Wing commander, addresses the audience during a 9/11 commemoration Sept. 10 at the Italian-American Friendship Festival in Maniago, Italy. (U.S. Air Force photo/2nd Lt. Joseph Alonso)
by 2nd Lt. Joseph Alonso
31st Fighter Wing Public Affairs
9/13/2011 - MANIAGO, Italy -- More than 2,000 people were present to take part in fun sporting events, view static displays, music and dance while enjoying Italian cuisine during this year's 10th annual Italian-American Friendship Festival Sept. 10 at the sports center and Piazza Italia in Maniago, Italy.
Hosted by the Municipality of Maniago and the Honorary Squadron Commanders Association, the day-long event focused on engagement between American and Italian community members.
"It was a great day of fun and friendship for all participants," said Brig. Gen. Scott Zobrist, 31st Fighter Wing commander, and sports tournament participant.
To foster good-spirited interaction and friendly competition, the day's activities included tennis, basketball, beach volleyball and archery -- sports well known to both cultures. Aviano Air Base varsity players took the sports center fields for traditional American flag football and softball pick-up games. A traditional two-part Italian meal was provided to all participants and spectators. Smiles could be seen on the faces of instructors coaching Italian and American children in soccer, basketball, swimming, archery and tennis.
In the afternoon in the Piazza, a special paragliding trio sailed off the nearby mountain tops carrying the Italian, American and Prisoner Of War/Missing In Action flags above the Piazza crowd. Booths exploring the 100 years of the Pagliano e Gori Italian military airport, vintage bicycles, a knife museum and local and international cork screws were on display.
A flag and wreath laying ceremony took place at 4:45 p.m. at the Maniago Nursery School yard, marking the 10th anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. The Maniago Philharmonic Band played the national anthems of both nations and familiar patriotic melodies during the ceremony, throughout which installation and community leaders gave remarks.
A free dinner was offered for everyone in attendance at 6:45 p.m. in Piazza Italia. Music and dance groups closed out the festival, beginning at 7:30 p.m. and ending later in the evening. The Aviano Chapel Gospel Choir was among the featured performances on the center stage in Piazza Italia.
"Thanks to all who made it out to Maniago to enjoy the day of festivities," said Zobrist. "If you couldn't make it this year, the event will be at Maniago again next year so you'll have a chance to participate in 2012. I'm looking forward to seeing you then."