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The cast of Up with People takes the stage in Denver in this publicity shot for Up with People. (Submitted photo)

Up with People: A Montevideo encore

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extra Willmar, 56201
Willmar Minnesota 2208 Trott Ave. SW / P.O. Box 839 56201

The last time "Up with People'' came to Montevideo was in April 1997 and Mayor Jim Curtiss rushed the entire cast to work piling sandbags on the city's main levee during the height of the record flood.

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A new cast is returning, and the mayor is ready to acquaint them with sandbags as well. Montevideo is facing the prospect of spring flooding again. The mayor hopes they will help fill 100,000 sandbags, just in case.

That's just as it should be, according to Aude Goudreault and Shelsea Ochoa, promotion representatives with the Denver-based non-profit, "Up with People.'' Community service is part of the "Up with People" package, but the big prize is what happens on stage.

"Up with People" is promising to deliver the excitement of song and dance as only a 90-plus cast of talented young performers from around the world can offer. This year's show "A Song for the World,'' will be performed at the Montevideo Fine Arts Center at 7:30 p.m. March 10.

It's an uplifting performance of song, dance, color and live music, according to Goudreault and Ochoa.

"Up with People" is also all about community service and reaching out, and cast members never visit a community without taking on service projects, according to the two. Cast members will arrive in Montevideo on March 8 and begin visiting the Montevideo schools to talk about their cultures in countries ranging from Bangladesh and China to Brazil and Finland.

The students coming to Montevideo represent 20 different countries. More than 70 percent of the cast is from outside of the United States, according to Goudreault.

For many, this will be their first exposure to snow and winter, she said.

Started in 1965, "Up with People'' is a non-denominational organization dedicated to bringing a message of peace and hope to the world, said the two. Participants audition for the opportunity to perform with the cast. If chosen, the students must also raise funds to cover about one-third of the expenses associated with this unique, cultural exchange opportunity.

Cast members stay with host families and immerse themselves in new cultures, while sharpening their own skills as live performers in dance and song.

The cast coming to Montevideo is making a swing through the Midwest prior to performances that will take them to the Philippines, the Southwest U.S. and Mexico. During the tour to the Philippines, the cast members will be helping people rebuild their lives in the aftermath of major flooding in that country, according to Ochoa.

Montevideo has sent some of its own around the world with the organization, and that plays a role in the return to Montevideo. Megan Luebke of Montevideo was a cast member with "Up with People" in 1997. Now working with the Minnesota Lynx in Minneapolis, Luebke encouraged "Up with People" to make her hometown part of their 2010 Midwest tour.

Host families needed

Goudreault and Ochoa arrived in Montevideo a week ago to begin recruiting host families for the cast. The cast includes male and female performers ages 18 through 29. They will be in Montevideo March 8-11.

Host families are asked only to provide meals for their guests during the stay, as well as transportation to and from town during the three days. In return, the hosts will enjoy the opportunity to learn about their guest's country and culture, and receive two complimentary tickets to the concert.

Host families need only live within a reasonable driving distance of Montevideo.

If interested, contact Aude Goudreault or Shelsea Ochoa at 320-226-3443.

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