A regular dose of gratitude can improve a child's self-esteem, reduce family stress and increase overall optimism for everyone.

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Daily Thanksgiving: A Recipe for a Happy Family


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Giving thanks seems like a simple idea, tossed freely about by habit. We teach children to thank their friends for sharing toys, we thank co-workers for helping with a task, and we squeal our thanks when opening gifts.

But when given sincerely and contemplated daily, those two little words have the power to change a household. Recent research reveals that a regular dose of gratitude can improve a child’s self-esteem, reduce family stress and increase overall optimism for everyone. In short, saying “thank you” can put everyone in a good mood!

A positive change for all ages

Jeffrey Froh, assistant professor of psychology at Hofstra University, studied the effect of grateful thinking on middle school students. His research shows that middle school students who counted their blessings regularly reported higher levels of gratitude, optimism and life satisfaction. And, as an added bonus, these students increased their pleasure with school.

According to Froh, children as young as 7 years old may grasp the concept of gratitude. “As children become less egocentric and enter early adolescence, the ability to empathize strengthens,” he explains.

But it is not just children who benefit from being thankful. In an experiment involving those who kept gratitude journals on a weekly basis, researchers found that adult participants reported feeling better about their lives as a whole and were more optimistic about the upcoming week when compared to those who recorded hassles or neutral life events. The same study revealed that in the span of just two months, people who exercised gratitude were more likely to make progress toward personal goals, including academic and health-based goals, when compared to others.

When working with adults recovering from addiction at both Promises and the Betty Ford Center, Dr. Laura Trice has noted the relationship between gratitude and positive thinking. “There is a saying in the recovery setting that 95 percent of the problem is negative thinking. The only remedy for that is gratitude,” says the counselor, who also speaks about gratitude. “It strengthens the part of the brain that sees what is right and good.”

Steps to help your children

One of the most important ways to help children feel grateful is to help them recognize the efforts of others. “Recognizing others’ behaviors as intentional is the core thought behind generating gratitude,” Froh explains, adding, “So if a friend helps with homework, pitching a ball, perfecting a dance move or getting over a breakup, I think the parent should emphasize that the friend did not have to go above and beyond like this.”

To get your children started on the path to grateful thinking, both Froh and Trice offer these easy actions:

Ask everyone to share one thing they are grateful for at the dinner table each night. Trice notes that this is a simple act and can involve the entire family.

Occasionally, take a minute to ask for thanks. “Maybe a mom wants her kids to thank her for dinner or clear the dishes as their way of saying ‘thank you.’ Maybe a dad wants to be thanked for planning a vacation. Maybe the child wants his parents to say ‘thank you’ for remembering to take the dog for a walk,” Trice says. Acknowledging these sometimes overlooked accomplishments can help family members feel appreciated and generate an attitude of gratitude.

Keep a gratitude journal. Trice suggests each member of the family keep a private journal in which each writes two or three gratitudes at bedtime.

Send thank-you notes. Make a habit of writing thank-you cards for relatives, friends, teachers and coaches. If your child is too young to write a card, consider having her draw a picture for the recipient.

Take time for a gratitude visit. “This is when the kids think of someone who did something kind for them, write them a thank-you letter and read it to them face to face,” Froh explains.

Recognize your child’s achievements. As a child makes progress toward a goal, note the achievement. “If the kid does not do as well as they wanted to in x, y or z, remind them how far they’ve come,” Froh says, noting that progress toward a goal is something to be grateful for.

Identify the people who help your child. “Our individualistic culture instills in us a sense of, ‘I did this on my own.’ That’s hogwash! Interdependence is integral for success. So, if your kid wins the spelling bee, help him list all of those who helped along the way. Grateful people ... recognize the contributions of others responsible for specific achievements,” Froh says.

Steps for parents and caregivers

Just as important as teaching children these habits of gratitude is exercising them ourselves. “I feel that children are better imitators than listeners, so parents showing and demonstrating thankfulness is very important. A husband appreciating his wife for what she does during the day shows that he values her. A wife appreciating her husband for his contributions shows the children that she respects his efforts,” Trice stresses, adding, “The impact of children seeing their parents appreciate one another, I would think, is providing them a sense of well-being.”

Froh agrees, saying that modeling grateful behavior and using grateful language are two ways we lead our children by example. He also stresses the importance of watching for grateful behavior in our children and identifying it.

As parents, we have the power to lead our family on a healthy and happy path with two simple words. It is a gift we give ourselves. And it is worth a hearty, “Thank you!”

Mary Jo Kurtz is a freelance writer whose research and essays have appeared in more than 70 regional and national publications. She and her husband, Gary, have two sons, Sam, 19, and Joey, 8.

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June 2019

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Cost: Free

Where:
Historic Yates Mill County Park
4620 Lake Wheeler Road
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Cabela's
201
Cabela Dr.
Garner, NC  27529
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Telephone: 984-204-2200
Contact Name: Tammy Fonda-Quann

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Bass Pro Shops
801 Bass Pro Ln.
Cary, NC  27513
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Telephone: 417-413-9368
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Erwin Road
Durham, NC  27705
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Sponsor: Mindful Families of Durham
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Cost: See website for fees

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Downtown Raleigh
500 S. Salisbury St.
Raleigh, NC  27601
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It`s 1863 at Yates Mill, and the yard is alive with activity! Step back in time with our 19th-century costumed interpreters and watch the millstones at work grinding corn into meal.  Tour fee:...

Cost: $5/Adult, $4/Senior (ages 60+), $3/Child (ages 7-16), Free/Child (6 - under)

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Historic Yates Mill County Park
4620 Lake Wheeler Road
Raleigh, NC  27603
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Crowder County Park
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Cost: $12/resident, $16/nonresident

Where:
Stevens Nature Center/Hemlock Bluffs
2616 Kildaire Farm Rd.
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100 N Greensboro St
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Sponsor: Orange County Public Library
Telephone: 919-918-7387
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Crowder County Park
4709 Ten-Ten Road
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Cost: See website for fees

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Downtown Raleigh
500 S. Salisbury St.
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Sponsor: LetsRoam!
Telephone: 833-202-7626
Contact Name: LetsRoam!
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Kids hike, make projects and engage in nature activities. Ages 5-8. Register online. Choose course #124691.

Cost: $9/resident, $12/nonresident

Where:
Stevens Nature Center/Hemlock Bluffs
2616 Kildaire Farm Rd.
Cary, NC  27518
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Telephone: 919-387-5980
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Kids hike, make projects and engage in nature activities. Ages 5-8. Register online. Choose course #124963.

Cost: $9/resident, $12/nonresident

Where:
Stevens Nature Center/Hemlock Bluffs
2616 Kildaire Farm Rd.
Cary, NC  27518
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Telephone: 919-387-5980
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Travel 238,900 miles above the earth as we commemorate the 50th anniversary of humans’ first landing on the moon. What's it like to travel in space? With the help of some volunteers, kids...

Cost: Free

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Orange County Main Library
137 W Margaret Ln
Hillsborough, NC  27278
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Sponsor: Orange County Public Library
Telephone: 919-245-2539
Contact Name: Orange County Main Library
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Cost: Free

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Orange County Main Library
137 W Margaret Ln
Hillsborough, NC  27278
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Sponsor: Orange County Public Library
Telephone: 919-245-2539
Contact Name: Orange County Main Library
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Ages 11 and older with special needs stroll through the woods. Register online. Choose course #124383.

Cost: $2/resident, $3/nonresident

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Stevens Nature Center/Hemlock Bluffs
2616 Kildaire Farm Rd.
Cary, NC  27518
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Vacation Bible School includes dinner. Register at wpumc.com/vbs

Cost: Free

Where:
White Plains United Methodist Church
313 S.E. Maynard Rd.
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Cost: Free

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Historic Yates Mill County Park
4620 Lake Wheeler Road
Raleigh, NC  27603
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Telephone: 919-856-6675
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Celebrate our #1 pollinator by learning about the busy bees of Crowder Park. Learn the dances of bees and how they communicate, discover how pollination works, and taste different types of honey....

Cost: Free

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Crowder County Park
4709 Ten-Ten Road
Apex, NC  27539
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Telephone: 919-662-2850
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Cost: See website for fees

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Downtown Raleigh
500 S. Salisbury St.
Raleigh, NC  27601
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Sponsor: LetsRoam!
Telephone: 833-202-7626
Contact Name: LetsRoam!
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Vacation Bible School includes dinner. Register at wpumc.com/vbs

Cost: Free

Where:
White Plains United Methodist Church
313 S.E. Maynard Rd.
Cary, NC  27511
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Sponsor: White Plains UMC
Telephone: 919-467-9394
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Cost: Free

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East Regional Library
946 Steeple Square Court
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Cost: $5

Where:
Wilkerson Nature Preserve
5229 Awls Haven Drive
Raleigh, NC  27614
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Sponsor: City of Raleigh Parks, Recreation and Cultural Resources
Telephone: 919-996-6764
Contact Name: Martha Kane
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Bees are really important in our gardens! Read The Honey Robber and the Bee by Eric Carle and discover the world of bees and honey! Find your fellow bees by following your sense of smell, make a...

Cost: Free

Where:
Crowder County Park
4709 Ten-Ten Road
Apex, NC  27539
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Telephone: 919-662-2850
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Sign up for a Raleigh scavenger hunt and put on your best Nick Cage impression as you seek out the national treasures hidden in Raleigh. Via an app, be guided through the cultural, historical,...

Cost: See website for fees

Where:
Downtown Raleigh
500 S. Salisbury St.
Raleigh, NC  27601
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Sponsor: LetsRoam!
Telephone: 833-202-7626
Contact Name: LetsRoam!
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Enjoy tea time for the whole family. Samples of hot tea, cold tea, and kombucha will be provided, along with games and family fun.

Cost: Free

Where:
IngenuiTea Kombucha Coffee & Tea
514 E Williams St
APEX, NC  27502
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Sponsor: IngenuiTea Brews
Telephone: 919-438-3684
Contact Name: Mark Poole
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Vacation Bible School includes dinner. Register at wpumc.com/vbs

Cost: Free

Where:
White Plains United Methodist Church
313 S.E. Maynard Rd.
Cary, NC  27511
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Sponsor: White Plains UMC
Telephone: 919-467-9394
Contact Name: Michele Vansteen
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Enjoy an out-of-this world space spectacular event. Preschoolers and their families are invited to fly in for space-themed games, crafts, and more. No registration required.

Cost: Free

Where:
East Regional Library
946 Steeple Square Court
Knightdale, NC  27545
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Cost: $9/resident, $11/nonresident

Where:
Bond Park Community Center
801 High House Rd.
Cary, NC  27513
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Cost: FREE

Where:
Lake Crabtree County Park
1400 Aviation Pkwy.
Morrisville, NC  27560
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Sponsor: Lake Crabtree County Park
Telephone: 919-460-3355
Contact Name: Carol Cunningham
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Cost: Free

Where:
N.C. Museum of History
5 E. Edenton St.
Raleigh, NC  27601
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Enjoy giant checkers, giant jenga, bubbles, and special art activities in Downtown Park. All other permanent games (ping pong, bocce ball, chess) will continue to be available.

Cost: Free

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Downtown Park
319 S. Academy St.
Cary, NC  27511
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Parent and child ages 2-5 water plants in the native wildflower gardens. Register online. Choose course #124907.

Cost: Free

Where:
Stevens Nature Center/Hemlock Bluffs
2616 Kildaire Farm Rd.
Cary, NC
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Telephone: 919-387-5980
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Join Optimist Aquatic Center as thousands of kids and adults around the world unite for the world's largest swimming lesson. The World's Largest Swimming Lesson will celebrate its 10th...

Cost: Free

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Optimist Aquatic Center
5902 Whittier Dr.
Raleigh, NC  27609
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Sign up for a Raleigh scavenger hunt and put on your best Nick Cage impression as you seek out the national treasures hidden in Raleigh. Via an app, be guided through the cultural, historical,...

Cost: See website for fees

Where:
Downtown Raleigh
500 S. Salisbury St.
Raleigh, NC  27601
View map »


Sponsor: LetsRoam!
Telephone: 833-202-7626
Contact Name: LetsRoam!
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Cost: Free

Where:
East Regional Library
946 Steeple Square Court
Knightdale, NC  27545
View map »


Website »

More information

Vacation Bible School includes dinner. Register at wpumc.com/vbs

Cost: Free

Where:
White Plains United Methodist Church
313 S.E. Maynard Rd.
Cary, NC  27511
View map »


Sponsor: White Plains UMC
Telephone: 919-467-9394
Contact Name: Michele Vansteen
Website »

More information

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Every year on June 21, we enjoy the most hours of sunlight during the whole year. Discover the science and cultural celebrations behind this special summer day. Make a pretty sun catcher to hang in...

Cost: Free

Where:
Historic Yates Mill County Park
4620 Lake Wheeler Road
Raleigh, NC  27603
View map »


Telephone: 919-856-6675
Website »

More information

What do Historic Yates Mill County Park and the woodland faeries have in common? They both love nature! Take a short walk near the millpond to search for evidence of faeries (sightings are not...

Cost: Free

Where:
Historic Yates Mill County Park
4620 Lake Wheeler Road
Raleigh, NC  27603
View map »


Telephone: 919-856-6675
Website »

More information

Sign up for a Raleigh scavenger hunt and put on your best Nick Cage impression as you seek out the national treasures hidden in Raleigh. Via an app, be guided through the cultural, historical,...

Cost: See website for fees

Where:
Downtown Raleigh
500 S. Salisbury St.
Raleigh, NC  27601
View map »


Sponsor: LetsRoam!
Telephone: 833-202-7626
Contact Name: LetsRoam!
Website »

More information

Enjoy magic, storytelling and origami with Yasu Ishida. Grades K-5.

Cost: Free

Where:
East Regional Library
946 Steeple Square Court
Knightdale, NC  27545
View map »


Website »

More information

Enjoy an indoor/outdoor vendor market with food trucks, coffee, live music outside and plenty of fun for all ages.  

Cost: Free

Where:
Pine State Coffee
1614 Automotive Way
Raleigh, NC  27604
View map »


Sponsor: Raleigh Night Market
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More information

Vacation Bible School includes dinner. Register at wpumc.com/vbs

Cost: Free

Where:
White Plains United Methodist Church
313 S.E. Maynard Rd.
Cary, NC  27511
View map »


Sponsor: White Plains UMC
Telephone: 919-467-9394
Contact Name: Michele Vansteen
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Cost: Free

Where:
Crowder County Park
4709 Ten-Ten Road
Apex, NC  27539
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Telephone: 919-662-2850
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More information

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Every year on June 21, we enjoy the most hours of sunlight during the whole year. Discover the science and cultural celebrations behind this special summer day. Make a pretty sun catcher to hang in...

Cost: Free

Where:
Historic Yates Mill County Park
4620 Lake Wheeler Road
Raleigh, NC  27603
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Telephone: 919-856-6675
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Cost: $12/person. Free for ages 2 and younger.

Where:
Raleigh Convention Center
500 S. Salisbury St.
Raleigh, NC  27601
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Cost: Free

Where:
Duke Homestead State Historic Site
2828 Duke Homestead Rd.
Durham, NC  27705
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Cost: Free

Where:
Historic Yates Mill County Park
4620 Lake Wheeler Road
Raleigh, NC  27603
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Telephone: 919-856-6675
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Cost: Free

Where:
The Scrap Exchange
2050 Chapel Hill Rd.
Durham, NC  27707
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Cost: See website for fees

Where:
Downtown Raleigh
500 S. Salisbury St.
Raleigh, NC  27601
View map »


Sponsor: LetsRoam!
Telephone: 833-202-7626
Contact Name: LetsRoam!
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Want to get inside Historic Yates Mill? Join us for a half-hour tour (starting at 1, 1:30, 2, 2:30 or 3 p.m.) to view the main power drive and milling machinery while exploring the mill's history...

Cost: $5/Adult, $4/Senior (ages 60+), $3/Child (ages 7-16), Free/Child (6 - under)

Where:
Historic Yates Mill County Park
4620 Lake Wheeler Road
Raleigh, NC  27603
View map »


Telephone: 919-856-6675
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Cost: Free

Where:
NC Cooperative Extension
721 Foster St.
Durham, NC  27701
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Sponsor: March of Dimes/Duke Family Medicine
Telephone: 678-246-9027
Contact Name: Courtney Simpson
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Cost: $8/resident, $10/nonresident

Where:
Stevens Nature Center/Hemlock Bluffs
2616 Kildaire Farm Rd.
Cary, NC
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Telephone: 919-387-5980
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Cost: $12 advance tickets, $15 at the door. Free for ages 12 and younger

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Bunn, NC  27508
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Sponsor: Vollmer Farm
Telephone: 919-496-3076
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E. Carroll Joyner Park
701 Harris Rd.
Wake Forest, NC  27587
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