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Art, music and culture will abound this Saturday at Project Gettysburg-León's annual Nicaragua Night and Auction, which benefits the organization's development projects in the country's León region.

The event, which is held at Gettysburg College's Hauser Field House, includes silent and live auctions, a chili buffet dinner and live music. Doors open at 4:30 p.m. The dinner is BYOB.

Joyce Ettinger, co-chair of the event, said some of the items donated for auction include a hearing aid, a week-long condo stay in Florida, two weekend getaways at Rehoboth Beach and various dinners, including French, Danish and Swedish meals specially prepared for the winning bidder.

"There are a lot of really good things this year," she said.

Project Gettysburg-León got its start in the early 1980s when Gettysburg College began facilitating trips for students and faculty to visit Nicaragua during the Sandinista-Contra conflict, according to co-president Karl Mattson.

The educational trips were meant to expose them to areas where people were experiencing significant problems, Mattson said, such as Nicaragua, one of the poorest countries in Latin America and Central America.

Eventually the group started working with Project Minnesota-León, a sister city program, and in 1987 Project Gettysburg-León was formed by Adams County residents and members of the Gettysburg College community.

In 1989, Gettysburg Borough Council recognized León as its official sister city. More than 800 people from Gettysburg and León have traveled to each others' towns since then, Mattson said.

The nonprofit organization's purpose is to build a relationship with and support small development projects in the León region, as well as educate others about the "very real realities" some countries experience, Mattson said.

Today, Project Gettysburg-León supports an art school in León, Taller Artistico Xouchialt, and it collaborates with Casa de la Cultura, a local Latino association that coordinates programs like English language classes, swimming clinics and immigration counseling. The project also works with the Young Growers Alliance of Adams County, a program of the Penn State Extension, to learn how to improve agricultural techniques in Nicaraguan communities. It has also given funds to Las Tias, a group that works with at-risk children in Nicaragua.

The money raised at Saturday's auction will allow the project to continue these efforts to aid the people of León.

Typically, the event brings in $40,000 to $50,000, Mattson said.

Tickets are $15 and may be purchased at the door. Children under 5 are free. Child care will be available at 5:45 p.m.

Mattson said its one of the most diverse gatherings in the Gettysburg area.

"People simply have a good time," he said.

If you go

What: Project Gettysburg-León's Nicaragua Night and Auction

Where: Gettysburg College, Hauser Field House, 300 N. Washington St., Gettysburg

When: 6 p.m., Saturday, Jan. 16

For more details: gettysburg-leon.org  

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