FAIRBANKS — Fenano, Italy, and its sister city in Alaska have more in common than a link to the prospector who discovered gold here in 1902. There’s also hockey, industrial sprockets and parmesan cheese.
This week, Fairbanks hosted seven guests from Fenano, including town mayor Stefano Muzzarelli, his tourism minister and several hockey players and figure skaters.
Their itinerary included the usual Fairbanks winter tourism spots like Chena Hot Springs Resort, plus some perks that came with being a sister city delegation on tour. They got to see a F-16 fighter jet up close at Eielson Air Force Base and tour the Fort Knox Gold Mine. Muzzarelli rode behind Yukon Quest musher Rob Cooke at the start of the sled dog race.
Fenano is a town of about 2,000 people in central Italy with an interest in ice skating that’s disproportionate to its small size. The town has two hockey teams and more than 100 figure skaters, said Julie Jones, the executive director of nonprofit organization Festival Fairbanks.
“We structured the entire schedule around the skating schedule. We looked at how many times they were on the ice and then built activites into that” she said.
Fenano has been a sister city of Fairbanks since 2002, 100 years after Fenano native Felice Pedroni discovered gold near what’s now the Steese Highway. In America Pedroni is known by his hispanicized name Felix Pedro. Perdoni was born in 1858 and still has ancestors living in Fenano. His great grandnephew Adriano Pedroni came to visit Fairbanks in 2014.
The idea for this trip came about last summer when Fairbanks City Mayor John Eberhart visited Fenano, Jones said. A 20-member committee in Fairbanks began preparing the delegation’s arrival. The Fenano delegation arrived in Fairbanks on February 3 and stayed 10 days.
The trip was part fun and part business. The guests brought as a gift half a wheel of parmesan cheese, a product made in Fenano. The town’s other industries include tourism, the production of balsamic vinegar and the production of industrial sprockets. The Fenano sprocket business already has a customer in an Alaska mining, Jones said.
There are already plans for another visit from Muzzarelli in July during Fairbanks’ Golden Days festivities, the annual celebration of Pedro’s gold discovery.
Contact outdoors editor Sam Friedman at 459-7545. Follow him on Twitter: @FDNMoutdoors.