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Global Peace Festival Hottest Ticket in Town

Asunción, Paraguay - Thousands of excited and eager Paraguayan teenagers and young adults besieged a popular radio station in downtown Asunción today, in response to a promotion offering pairs of free tickets to the Global Peace Festival scheduled to be held this coming Saturday. Even though the Club Olimpia Stadium is one of the capital’s top venues and holds more than 25,000, expectations are high that it will be completely sold out come the weekend.

Among the top music acts flying in to perform at the charity event are Argentine superstar Alejandro Lerner, Cuban rappers Chapa C and bands from Panama and the Dominican Republic. The Paraguayan National Symphony Orchestra and Ballet and several popular local bands are also slated to play.

The near-chaos at the radio station this afternoon wasn’t a simple grab for free tickets, though. Indeed, every single one of the young people waiting on line also came with something to give for the poorest children of this southern nation. Some brought clothes, many brought bags of rice, sugar, tea and other staples, whatever they could manage.

“We’re hoping to get tickets, of course,” said Daniela, 15, “but even if we don’t, it’s great to be able to help others.”

When the station finally opened its doors at 4pm, a sudden surge of people gave a moment’s concern to the dozen or so riot police assembled with their shields and helmets to keep order. But suddenly a great cheer went up as the police let through several pregnant mothers with their young children, some of whom had been there since noon. Shortly after that the first batches of happy teenagers left clutching highly prized tickets for the big event.

The Global Peace Festival is hot news here in the capital of Paraguay. For several weeks, awareness has been growing through a series of high profile public announcements and several wide-ranging service projects that are involving hundreds of Paraguayan university students in a campaign to raise morale and pride in their nation in a time of great transition and hope.

The timing is certainly perfect. Just two days ago, a new congress was sworn in, the result of the first truly free elections in Paraguay ending decades of one-party rule and promising a new dawn of hope for the region. Next month, new President Fernando Lugo takes office – a former Catholic priest who promises to bring a new era of moral and economic renewal to this nation.

Still, everyone you talk to around town seems to realize that political change is not enough. The hope of the Global Peace Festival is to secure a revival of volunteerism and public spiritedness, starting with the youth.

The Festival officially opened this evening with a reception at the Hotel Excelsior. 250 foreign guests from 75 nations were joined by a broad cross section of Asunción including some its better known political and community leaders as well as many of the unsung heroes who’ve been volunteering over the past several weeks.