FAIRBANKS - Mayor Steve Thompson apparently has avoided a minor international incident by agreeing to visit a sister city in Italy next month.
A proposed September goodwill trip by a contingent of Fairbanks residents to its sister city of Fanano, Italy, fell apart earlier this year, leading to an impassioned response from the mayor of the town.
Fanano is the hometown of Fairbanks' founding father Felix Pedro. Thompson declared it a sister city of Fairbanks, and 32 people from the town arrived in July last year to take part in Golden Days, the annual celebration of Fairbanks' mining history.
At the time, Thompson and others agreed to return the favor.
"We told them that we were going to try to get over this summer," Thompson said.
About 20 city and state officials, business leaders and others expressed an initial interest in making the trip. But when the time came toward the end of last year for people to make deposits to secure a group rate, everyone bailed out. Thompson said he credited it to travel fears as well as the local tendency to procrastinate.
Even as the mayor's office was making tentative plans to reschedule the trip for next May, the citizens of Fanano were busy organizing a massive event to celebrate the arrival of the Fairbanks contingent. The tiny town nestled high in the mountains of north-central Italy planned a three-day symposium on Italian emigration with a focus on Pedro, who grew up in the town as Felice Pedroni before he left for America and made the gold strike that put Fairbanks on the map.
The schedule included speeches, tours, exhibitions, movies, concerts, visits by Italian government officials both local and national, street theater and a play about Pedro put on by local schoolchildren. The town even began the school year early so children could rehearse for the event.
Due to what trip organizers described as "a communications breakdown at a very crucial time," the people in Fanano didn't learn of the visit falling through until late July.
The news didn't sit well with Mayor Alessandro Corsini. In a wrenching written response to Thompson, he urged the mayor to come anyway.
"What would love be without goose bumps, uncertainties, passion, because we are dealing with true love, love between two cities, two nations that are attracted to one another," he wrote. "In love not all is rational, and it is for this that I ask you to reserve airplane tickets for you and your wife and to come here to Fanano."