Follow Your Child's Heart in Art


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Picture a toddler surrounded by wooden blocks, arranging them carefully — even artfully. There's a name for kids who express an aptitude for 3-D visual arts as toddlers: builders.

"Even from a very young age, you can tell the ones who are developing 3-D space more quickly than others," says Explore! Art Director Chris Purcell. "You can already see a plan."

But if your child isn't composing symphonies at the age of 5 or dancing on America's Got Talent by age 7, how do you choose an art — or performing art — class that helps her develop her skills and enhance her natural interests? We asked experts from across the Triangle for tips on what to look for — in your child and in an arts education facility.

Exploring a range of options

Triangle community arts centers offer a variety of rolling classes throughout the year. From short, introductory art classes to comprehensive after-school programs and full-day summer camps, the centers work to meet families' needs and children's interests.

"We want to help children see the things they're interested in and develop tools to apply to life," says Shirlette Ammons, youth arts coordinator for The ArtsCenter in Carrboro. "When you're choosing a class for your child, you may sign him up for the theater hoping to improve his self-esteem, or nurture him if he is a bit reserved."

Ammons says one of The ArtsCenter's most popular classes is Capoeira, a Brazilian martial arts program combined with hip hop. "The kids love it, and we have a whole slate of new classes starting in the new year," she says.

New art classes are wonderful, but Robbie Stone, supervisor of the Cary Arts Center, says signing a child up for a class without consulting him is a big mistake. "We encourage parents to talk to their kids. Maybe look through our brochure and offer a couple of suggestions to pique the child's interest," he says. Narrowing the choices may keep your child from feeling overwhelmed.

But what if you have determined the best spot for your child is in an improvisation class or a pointe class to become the next Sugarplum Fairy? Here's what to look for in different arts classes.

Music: good for brain development — and family recreation

"I've been in the music business for over 20 years, and the last five years have [experienced] the most dramatic change," says Billy Cuthrell, founder and owner of Progressive Music Center in Raleigh and Wake Forest. He says after a big music movement on Sesame Street and interactive video games like Rock Band and Guitar Hero came on the scene, families approached music as a recreational activity.

Although the video game phenomenon has died down a bit, Cuthrell says the excitement and self-confidence generated by the games remain, and parents continue to sign children up for music lessons at a record pace. He also notes that the age of first-time students is younger than it used to be, with many enrolling at age 4, 5 and 6 years old. His school offers group piano lessons for 3- and 4-year-olds.

"Music does things for the developing brain that cannot be replaced," Cuthrell says. However, he advises taking personality traits and the individual child into consideration.

"A good teacher can develop the talent, but parents must remember that music lessons don't produce instant gratification," he says. Time, persistence and practice are key.

When it comes to music, parents should consider the cost of lessons, books and the instrument. They should also describe the long-term payoffs and encourage commitment to a regular practice schedule.

Dance as recreation — or vocation?

Dance suits a naturally graceful or high-energy child. At Cary Ballet Conservatory, children's ballet mistress Anna Penny says it can be hard to tell which students will love performing. From the first class, with children as young as 4, Penny watches to see whether children can follow her motions, pay attention and feel the music. As students approach age 10 or 11, she looks to see if they can follow more advanced movements.

"If your child is serious about it, he or she will need lots of rehearsal," Penny says. "But if they just want it to be recreational and embrace their love of dance and performance, they can take fewer classes."

She advises parents who have taken dance in the past against becoming over-involved in their own child's progress or concerned about teacher corrections. "Teachers want to help students learn and grow," she says. "Parents should let them learn and let the student enjoy feeling the dance."

Parents looking for a dance school should research the school's focus: Do students dance competitively or focus on jazz, ballet or tap? What are the school's goals? Penny says once a student is in a class, parents should communicate questions or concerns to the teacher.

Visual art encourages imagination and ongoing experimentation

From clay to color theory, tile projects to monotype printing, the program at Explore focuses on teaching concepts first and prioritizing imagination overtechnical ability.

Purcell says early classes focus on spatial reasoning and teaching students how to transfer concepts between 3-D and 2-D.

One of the newest ways for Explore! students to express their creative side is through graphic design. Students as young as age 8 or 9 can experiment with software like Gamemaker 8 Pro, Flash and Bender.

"Programming is a little different in that it doesn't really require traditional repetitive practice, but more understanding concepts and noticing things," says Explore! Technology Director Drago Bratic. "I realize now that I had such a great learning experience when I was a kid because my teacher forced me to think in a completely different way. It's what I'm trying to do with my students. Give them a new perspective on how to think about things."

Whether your child is a budding Picasso or could benefit from fine motor skill improvement, ensuring that art classes open new worlds instead of hamper creativity is key. Debbie Dale, art teacher at Briarcliff Elementary School in Cary, advises choosing a facility that celebrates imagination.

"I would shy away from schools that showcase art that has that cookie-cutter look," she says. "If it looks too alike or perfect, I would be wary. You want your children to learn skills, but they need to express themselves."

Classes in clay, painting, drawing, tile work, stained glass, cartooning and almost any other discipline you can imagine are available in the Triangle. Art schools have different fees and class requirements, so be sure to inquire about whether materials are included in the price or need to be purchased.

Drama fosters self-confidence and communication

When Beth Brody's son was 8, he was shy and didn't want to play sports. She signed him up for an introductory acting class at North Raleigh Arts and Creative Theatre and watched his confidence grow. Now a senior in high school, Brody's son has per-formed in 50 shows and attended the North Carolina Governor's School for acting.

"Acting isn't just for outgoing kids," says Brody, now NRACT operations manager. "Often kids are quiet and reserved, but it's their gift. Kids can come and give it a try; it's very non-threatening."

Brody says an introductory class teaches basic acting techniques through games and exercises, and that theater skills can apply to children's lives off-stage. "It works so much on their listening skills and teamwork," she says. "They must pay attention and stay engaged."

No matter how you excelled (or failed) as a child, remember to center your art class search around your child's specific talents, goals and desires. Whatever you and your child choose, make sure you know ahead of time what will happen if you change your minds about the class or decide to try a new artistic venture. Research websites, communicate with teachers, and visit programs and schools to see if the classes being offered are a good fit for your child. 

Anne Woodman is a Morrisville-based freelance writer and mother of two.

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August 2019

August 16th is National Tell a Joke Day. Come to the Finley Center anytime during the day to share some jokes with the park community. A large board will be set up in the Exhibit Hall where...

Cost: Free

Where:
Historic Yates Mill County Park
4620 Lake Wheeler Road
Raleigh, NC  27603
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Sponsor: Historic Yates Mill County Park
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For almost 200 years, farmers brought their wheat and corn to what is now Yates Mill to have their grains ground into flour and meal. Today, you can stop by the Yates Mill visitor center to see a...

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Historic Yates Mill County Park
4620 Lake Wheeler Road
Raleigh, NC  27603
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Sponsor: Historic Yates Mill County Park
Telephone: 919-856-6675
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Join Mindful Families of Durham, a Buddhist-inspired spiritual community that supports area parents, caregivers, and their children in the practice of mindfulness and the understanding of the...

Cost: Free

Where:
Erwin Road
Durham, NC  27705
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Sponsor: Mindful Families of Durham
Contact Name: Adam, Laura, Josh, Sumi
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Ages 18 months-5 years with special needs enjoy educational and therapeutic toys with caregiver. 

Cost: Free

Where:
Flaherty Park Community Center
1226 N. White St.
Wake Forest, NC  27587
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Enjoy live music, kid activities, a taco eating contest and The Best Taco contest.

Cost: Free

Where:
Knightdale Station Park
810 N. First Ave.
Knightdale, NC  27545
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Step back in time with our 19th-century costumed interpreters and watch the millstones at work grinding corn into meal. Tour fee: $5/Adult, $4/Senior (ages 60 & over), $3/Child (ages 7-16),...

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

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Historic Yates Mill County Park
4620 Lake Wheeler Road
Raleigh, NC  27603
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Sponsor: Historic Yates Mill County Park
Telephone: 919-856-6675
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Stop in during one of our Back to School Open Houses!  Meet our instructors, tune your instrument, learn a quick song and more!. Aug 12th 7-8:30 Brass & Woodwinds Aug 17th 12:30-2:00...

Cost: Free

Where:
Bach to Rock Music School
9587 US 64
Apex, NC  27523
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Sponsor: Bach To Rock Music School
Telephone: 919-446-5386
Contact Name: Kelly Foster
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See the Game Grumps play games, make jokes and more in this stage show. Purchase tickets online. 

Where:
Durham Performing Arts Center
123 Vivian St.
Durham, NC  27701
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Ages 18 months-5 years with special needs enjoy educational and therapeutic toys with caregiver. 

Cost: Free

Where:
Flaherty Park Community Center
1226 N. White St.
Wake Forest, NC  27587
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Ages 11-17 learn how to make foods inspired by Asia. Register online. Choose course #124729.

Cost: $35/resident, $46/nonresident

Where:
Herbert C. Young Community Center
101 Wilkinson Ave.
Cary, NC
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Stop in during one of our Back to School Open Houses!  Meet our instructors, tune your instrument, learn a quick song and more!. Aug 12th 7-8:30 Brass & Woodwinds Aug 17th 12:30-2:00...

Cost: Free

Where:
Bach to Rock Music School
9587 US 64
Apex, NC  27523
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Sponsor: Bach To Rock Music School
Telephone: 919-446-5386
Contact Name: Kelly Foster
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Cost: Free

Where:
Locopops Dessert Cafe
2618 Hillsborough St.
Durham, NC  27705
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Dragonflies love to eat flying bugs, especially mosquitoes and gnats!  Discover the different parts of a dragonfly's body through a colorful craft, learn about its life cycle, and play fun...

Cost: Free

Where:
Crowder County Park
4709 Ten-Ten Road
Apex, NC  27539
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Sponsor: Crowder County Park
Telephone: 919-662-2850
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Ages 18 months-5 years with special needs enjoy educational and therapeutic toys with caregiver. 

Cost: Free

Where:
Flaherty Park Community Center
1226 N. White St.
Wake Forest, NC  27587
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Join us at Harris Lake County Park as we explore the wonders of water through educational activities and some for just plain fun! We will dip for critters in our pond to discover what lives...

Cost: Free

Where:
Harris Lake County Park
2112 County Park Dr.
New Hill, NC  27562
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Sponsor: Harris Lake County Park
Telephone: 919-387-4342
Contact Name: Joanne St. Clair
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Ages 18 months-5 years with special needs enjoy educational and therapeutic toys with caregiver. 

Cost: Free

Where:
Flaherty Park Community Center
1226 N. White St.
Wake Forest, NC  27587
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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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Come to Learning Express Falls Pointe for an instructive class on how to make your very own Do-A-Dot Art creation.

Cost: Free

Where:
Learning Express Falls Pointe
9660 Falls of Neuse Rd
#130
Raleigh, NC  27615
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Sponsor: Learning Express Falls Pointe
Telephone: 919-325-6057
Contact Name: Stephanie Gillespie
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Join park staff for an informal fishing experience for the whole family. Bring your own poles or borrow one of ours through the Tackle Loaner Program. Bait and basic instruction are provided. All...

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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Take the fast track to nature in this hands-on study of ecology. Ages 8-12. Register online. Choose course #124972.

Cost: $9/resident, $12/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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Ages 18 months-5 years with special needs enjoy educational and therapeutic toys with caregiver. 

Cost: Free

Where:
Flaherty Park Community Center
1226 N. White St.
Wake Forest, NC  27587
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Design a T-shirt. Materials provided. Grades 3-5. Register at the library or call 919-245-2539.

Cost: Free

Where:
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: Libbie Hough
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We are so excited for our next Durham Night Market at Pine & Poplar at The Wine Feed. Over 40 local makers will be selling their handmade products. There will be food trucks, live music...

Cost: Free

Where:
The Wine Feed
307 S Roxboro St
Durham, NC  27701
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Sponsor: Raleigh Night Market
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Film to be announced. *Actual time to be determined by sunset. Bring your lawn chairs, blankets, and picnics to enjoy a movie under the stars in our beautiful garden!

Cost: Free

Where:
GREGG MUSEUM OF ART & DESIGN
1903 Hillsborough Street
Raleigh, NC  27607
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Sponsor: Gregg Museum of Art & Design
Telephone: 919-515-3503
Contact Name: Gregg Museum
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Ages 18 months-5 years with special needs enjoy educational and therapeutic toys with caregiver. 

Cost: Free

Where:
Flaherty Park Community Center
1226 N. White St.
Wake Forest, NC  27587
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Personality Festival is a Roxboro tradition. Enjoy amusements rides along Main Street, food vendors, singers, dancers, craft and merchandise vendors, local businesses and more. Little Miss...

Cost: Free

Where:
Uptown Roxboro
211 N. Main St.
Roxboro, NC  27573
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Sponsor: Roxboro Area Chamber of Commerce
Telephone: 336-599-8333
Contact Name: Melissa
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Bring your friends and family to Learning Express for a Family Game Night. There will be several games available to play including popular board games, card games, arcade games, and dice...

Cost: Free

Where:
Learning Express Falls Pointe
9660 Falls of Neuse Rd
#130
Raleigh, NC  27615
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Sponsor: Learning Express Falls Pointe
Telephone: 919-325-6057
Contact Name: Stephanie Gillespie
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Kids spend a night out in nature making memories and new friends in an old-fashioned, camp-style program. Ages 8-12. Register online. Choose course #124903.

Cost: $15/resident, $19/nonresident

Where:
Stevens Nature Center/Hemlock Bluffs
2616 Kildaire Farm Rd.
Raleigh, NC
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Telephone: 919-387-5980
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Take the family for a night of jigs, reels and anything Celtic. 

Cost: $3/person

Where:
Carrboro Century Center
100 N. Greensboro St.
Carrboro, NC  27510
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Shop for local handmade arts and crafts from local vendors. 

Cost: Free

Where:
Durham Central Park
501 Foster St.
Durham, NC  27701
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Hundreds of artisans from across the Southeast, festival foods, demonstrations, a kids' play area and live music highlight the town's signature arts and...

Cost: Free

Where:
Town Hall Campus
316 N. Academy St.
Cary, NC  27513
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The North Carolina Boys Choir and Girls Choir Half-Day Camp and Music Workshop is open to public (all children in our community between 7 and 14 years of age). Register online. ...

Cost: Free

Where:
Binkley Baptist Church
1712 Willow Dr
Chapel Hill, NC  27514
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Sponsor: North Carolina Boys Choir and Girls Choir
Telephone: 919-239-9083
Contact Name: Robert Unger
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Learn basic canoeing skills and a bit about the millpond's history, then head out to explore the pond's many features as seen only from the water. Canoes, paddles, and life jackets are...

Cost: Free

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

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Cost: Free

Where:
Leigh Farm Park
370 Leigh Farm Rd.
Durham, NC  27707
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Cost: Free

Where:
Duke Homestead
2828 Duke Homestead Rd.
Durham, NC  27705
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Website »

More information

Personality Festival is a Roxboro tradition. Enjoy amusements rides along Main Street, food vendors, singers, dancers, craft and merchandise vendors, local businesses and more. 

Cost: Free

Where:
Uptown Roxboro
211 N. Main St.
Roxboro, NC  27573
View map »


Sponsor: Roxboro Area Chamber of Commerce
Telephone: 336-599-8333
Contact Name: Melissa
Website »

More information

Celebrate North Carolina farming culture and history at Duke Homestead. Don't miss the looping contest and Hornworm Race. This event features live music, local arts and crafts vendors, hands-on...

Cost: Free

Where:
Duke Homestead
2828 Duke Homestead Rd.
Durham, NC  27705
View map »


Website »

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This event is FREE and open to the public! Join Read-a-roo and her PBS KIDS friends for a music-filled day of concerts, hands-on activities and more, Saturday, August 24, from 10 AM to 2 PM, at...

Cost: Free

Where:
University Place
201 S. Estes Dr
Chapel Hill, NC  27514
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Sponsor: UNC-TV

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Ages 18 months-5 years with special needs enjoy educational and therapeutic toys with caregiver. 

Cost: Free

Where:
Flaherty Park Community Center
1226 N. White St.
Wake Forest, NC  27587
View map »


Website »

More information

Learn basic canoeing skills and a bit about the millpond's history, then head out to explore the pond's many features as seen only from the water. Canoes, paddles, and life jackets are...

Cost: Free

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


Sponsor: Historic Yates Mill County Park
Telephone: 919-856-6675
Website »

More information

Take the family for treats, music, art and more. See a special exhibit showcasing the work of Artspace's talented young artists.

Cost: Free

Where:
Artspace
201 E. Davie St.
Raleigh, NC  27601
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Website »

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Want to get inside Historic Yates Mill? Join us for a half-hour tour (starting at 1:00, 1:30, 2:00, 2:30 & 3:00 p.m.) to view the main power drive and milling machinery while exploring the...

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

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


Sponsor: Historic Yates Mill County Park
Telephone: 919-856-6675
Website »

More information

Come into Learning Express North Hills for a trading event. Socialize with others who collect Pokemon and/or LOL dolls and negotiate for rare cards.

Cost: Free

Where:
Learning Express Falls Pointe
9660 Falls of Neuse Rd
#130
Raleigh, NC  27615
View map »


Sponsor: Learning Express Falls Pointe
Telephone: 919-325-6057
Contact Name: Stephanie Gillespie
Website »

More information

Children make treasured memories while increasing their knowledge of plants and animals. Ages 7-10. Register online. Choose course #124931.

Cost: $8/resident, $10/nonresident

Where:
Stevens Nature Center/Hemlock Bluffs
2616 Kildaire Farm Rd.
Cary, NC
View map »


Telephone: 919-387-5980
Website »

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Join Horne Memorial UMC & First Baptist Church of Clayton for an evening of Christian fellowship, inspirational music, free food and family fun. All proceeds benefit Clayton Area Ministries...

Cost: Free

Where:
Clayton Town Square
100 W. Main Street
Clayton, NC  27520
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Sponsor: First Baptist Church of Clayton and Horne Memorial UMC of Clayton
Telephone: 919-218-4010
Contact Name: Melissa Dooley
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Cost: $25 first child, $20 each additional child

Where:
East Cloud Kungfu, LLC
5655-A Western Blvd
Raleigh, NC  27606
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Sponsor: East Cloud Kungfu, LLC
Telephone: 252-646-7053
Contact Name: Imari Colon
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North Carolina State University celebrates the beginning of a new academic year with good, music and family-friendly activities. 

Cost: Free

Where:
North Carolina State University
Raleigh, NC  27607


Website »

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Cost: Free

Where:
Downtown Raleigh
400 Fayetteville St.
Raleigh, NC
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