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Westport Arts Center Gears up to Tango

Indulge yourself in the sights, sounds and tastes of South America in Westport at the premier fundraiser for the Westport Arts Center , a nonprofit visual and performing arts organization. This year's event, called "VIVA! Feel the Passion," will feature two Latin Grammy Award-winning musicians and Tango dancers, said Dale Najarian, co-chair of this weekend's event.

"This is a really important event for us," said Dale, explaining that the annual fundraiser typically produces about 30 percent of the center's operating budget for the entire year. "A lot of people think that because we're the Westport Arts Center, we're funded by town. But we're not. We're pretty much funded through grants, individual sponsors and sponsorships."

This year's benefit, to held at the Westport Country Playhouse, will feature a performance by Argentinean-born pianist Pablo Ziegler, jazz flautist Nestor Torres and world-class tango dancers.

In keeping with the theme, guests will also enjoy a variety of South American-inspired fare before and after the performances. The menu includes baked empanadas, turnovers traditionally stuffed with tomato sauce and beef; grilled pineapple and watermelon skewers; and chorizo and shrimp skewers. Plenty of Sangria and Argentinean wine will flow, too.

"This really is going to be a unique night. It's certainly not like anything we've done before," said Dale. "We wanted to come up with something different that would allow our supporters and people in community to experience something new."

The evening will also feature a "Fund Our Future Auction," a live auction during which participants wishing to further support the Arts Center can donate funds.

Nearly 600 people are expected to attend the fundraiser at 8 p.m. Saturday. Top tier tickets of $750 each are already sold out. Concert-only tickets start at $200. After party tickets are available for an additional $75 with the purchase of a tiered performance ticket, and are included in the top-tier $500 and $750 tickets. All ticket packages include access to the pre-performance reception. For tickets, call the Westport Country Playhouse at 203-222-4177 or visit the playhouse website .

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