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NAPLES — Hundreds of people from the military community got to sample culture and cuisine from 15 countries, along with the states of Texas and Louisiana and the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico.

They didn’t win a lottery. They just showed up at Naples Elementary School on Thursday night for the school’s first International Fair and Student Art Auction.

The event was coordinated by the school’s PTA, and was about two months in the planning. Calling on members of the military community to contribute their time, creativity and culture, organizers were able to transform the school’s multipurpose room (aka the Cafa- GymAtorium) into Naples’ version of Disney’s Epcot Center.

"Being away from my own country, I feel like I should share my culture and my special experiences with my community," said PTA member Rita Cabassa. "We put the word out to the school to see how many people would be able to participate. It took a while for people to respond, but we ended up with a great turnout."

In addition to coordinating the fair, Cabassa also brought a taste of her native Brazil to the event.

The Naples-based Brazilian dance troupe Yemanja performed a popular folk routine known as Capoeira, which combines carefully coordinated dance with martial arts moves, to the accompaniment of modern music and a berimbau — a single stringed instrument.

Each table had a variety of displays, all of which included samples of native foods, photographs and objects unique to each country. Mardi Gras beads, gumbo and dirty rice drew attendees to the Louisiana table. Yakisoba (fried noodles) and modern animation attracted onlookers at the Japanese display.

"This is fun, and it helps us learn about other people’s culture," said Kaishu Mason, a fifth-grader at Naples Elementary school.

Members of the community also donated several items such as baskets with international foods, cakes and books to be raffled off.

The art auction, which included works by students from grades one through six, was coordinated by Courtney Kellogg. All proceeds from the auction would go to the school’s art department, she said.

"This event helps us bring our international family together," Kellogg said. "It’s a way for us to give back to our military community and our children."

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