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Cabarrus Magazine

'Up Front' Gives You Ways to Survive Thanksgiving in Episode 35

Nov 15, 2019 03:29PM ● By Jason Huddle

Episode 35: Surviving Thanksgiving

Huddle: (00:00)
The Turkey is stuffed and in the oven the table is set, family is gathering and it's time to survive Thanksgiving, welcome to Up Front with Cabarrus Magazine, sponsored by Atlantic Bay mortgage, Cabarrus Arena and events Center, Cabarrus Eye Center, CERTEC Automotive, Code Ninjas, Concord Downtown Development Corporation, Family Wealth Partners, Merle Norman Cosmetics and Edie's salon and Your CBD store of Concord. I'm your host Jason Huddle.

Huddle: (00:36)
Welcome everyone. We are just a couple of weeks away from Thanksgiving. Can you believe it? This decade only has about six weeks left in it. It's crazy for me to think about, but if you're like my family, you are preparing for a lot of relatives and guests to darken your door come Thanksgiving Day and we are here to help you get through the holiday. That's why we entitled this episode 'Surviving Thanksgiving' and we are happy to do that. I'm very excited about our guests today. First of all, we are going to be going out to Charlotte Motor Speedway and talking to Jonathan Coleman. He is the director of communications out there. And if you haven't been in the last decade to see the holiday lights, you should go and he's got the lowdown on when to go, what is new this year, what you can expect in the Christmas village that's there in the middle of the Speedway, about halfway through the route, through the lights. It's just going to be an awesome time and it's a great idea if you're dying for a reason to get out of the house, maybe stretch your legs a little bit. Uh, this is going to be a great opportunity for you to go and see the lights, enjoy the show, enjoy the music, maybe even catch a Christmas movie while you're there. So we have a lot to talk about with Jonathan over there at the Speedway about that. And then some of us will be hitting the road. We'll be the ones darkening someone else's door. And so we have brought in our sponsors, CERTEC Automotive, to talk to us about what we need to do to get our car ready for the holidays if we're going to be taking those trips. And also of course just getting your car ready for winter. If you haven't noticed, it got cold really fast. We had about three days of fall and now we're already into winter, so you need to know some things going into this season regarding how to get your car ready for the cold weather. Granted, what we have is nothing compared to our neighbors to the North, but we still have our own degree of cold at least for a few months and you need to prepare your cars and so CERTEC Automotive is gonna be helping us with that. We're going to get into all that today, but first of course it is shameless plug time.

Huddle: (02:45)
If you have not voted for the Cabarrus Magazine Reader Awards, you need to do so right away. Voting closes tomorrow night, that's November 15th, and we will be announcing the winners at the Celebrate Cabarrus event next month. Coming up at the Speedway Club. In case you weren't aware, the four categories are; best fine dining, the finalists there are 44 mills Kitchen and Tap, 73 & Main, and Giannis Trattoria. Best casual dining; Our finalists are Two Gals Kitchen, Johnny Rogers Barbecue and The Smoke Pit. In the best retail category, our finalists are Cabo Winery, Lovely Lines Boutique and Sweetest Beginnings, and best overall business finalists are Cabarrus Brewing Company, Chick-fil-A on Concord Parkway, right there across from Carolina Mall, and Trinity OB/GYN. So, if you have not voted, please go on their vote share, do whatever you need to do because voting will close tomorrow night. That is Friday, November 15th, and again we'll be announcing the winners next month at Celebrate Cabarrus. And that is this week's shameless plug time.

Huddle: (03:57)
All right, stick around. When we come back, we will be out at Charlotte Motor Speedway to talk to Jonathan Coleman about the holiday lights, in just a moment.

Commercials: (04:05)

Huddle: (05:50)
Welcome once again to Up Front with Cabarrus Magazine. We are talking this week, as I mentioned at the beginning of the program, about surviving Thanksgiving. It's that time of year when your family comes to town and you're trying to figure out what to do with them because frankly you've been in the house all together, and it's getting old. So we had an idea to come out to Charlotte Motor Speedway, and talk with Jonathan Coleman. He's the director of communications here at Charlotte Motor Speedway and they have, once again - I think it's the 10th year, 10th year of the holiday lights opening up November 22nd. So I thought I'd come out and talk to you about this year's lights and what people can expect and why it has been such a popular attraction year after year. So first of all, Jonathan, thanks for being on the program.

Coleman: (06:38)
Well thanks for having me. Yeah, Speedway Christmas is definitely the, I think, the ultimate how to survive Thanksgiving and honestly how to survive the holidays because it carries right on through Christmas and even into the new years. So I appreciate the opportunity to come on and obviously we all have those, um, those needs to get out of the house and stretch your legs and whether it's just you bring in the wife and kids and leaving the rest of the family at home or kicking the rest of the family out and having a little time at home to yourself, you know, it's a great, a great opportunity to come out and enjoy the lights and all this Speedway at Christmas has to offer.

Huddle: (07:12)
We had Greg Walter general manager of the Speedway, on several weeks ago, and I told him, we were talking about the lights, and I told him, my, my father-in-law, who's 6'4, Midwest farm boy stock, you know, sort of salt of the earth guy, doesn't get hugely emotional about anything. Uh, and he certainly doesn't get giddy about anything. But, uh, whenever he comes up to visit for Thanksgiving, he always asks, can we go see the lights? And he kind of turns into a little kid about it. Uh, once we get here, he just loves it. He's an enamored. Uh, so it's funny that the lights have that effect on, you know, young and old, alike.

Coleman: (07:46)
It really is a cool thing. And I think something that sets Speedway Christmas apart from the rest of our events throughout the year. You know, you, you don't have to be a race fan, you don't have to be a motor sports fan, you don't have to have been to the race track before. Everybody loves Christmas lights. There's just something kind of magical about the twinkling of the lights, that cool crisp air that seems to come with this time of year. Um, you know, some fun Christmas music, whether it's roasting marshmallows by the fire down in the Christmas village or whatever the case may be. That there's just something, I think it goes back to the tradition. Everybody has their Christmas traditions, whether that's setting up the Christmas tree at home or opening one present on Christmas Eve before you get into the big, the big day. And our show has really become a tradition and it's something that's really neat to see. Families come back year after year. You know, it's a bit of a challenge for us, cause we want to make it fresh and new and different every year. But it is a lot of fun to, to create those traditions and, and really to see the show through. I have three children myself and to be able to come out and see it through those eyes you sort of get taken back to, to some of your favorite Christmas memories as well. So it's a neat, neat opportunity to do that with the family.

Huddle: (08:57)
So let's talk about some statistics. First of all, you guys start setting this up pretty much as soon as the Roval is done right?

Coleman: (09:03)
Absolutely. Yeah. We uh, I think we, we ran the Roval on Sunday. We had Monday to catch our breath and then Tuesday we started unloading trucks. So we've actually got four tractor trailer loads full of uh, lights and displays that, that we keep here on property, unload those. And then we work with, we work with a vendor who comes in and helps us set up a lot of the lights that are synchronized to the Christmas music. But yeah, it is a, it's about a five to six week process depending on when on the schedule that NASCAR race falls and when Thanksgiving falls. And you know, we've got crews that are working, you know, these last 10 days or so really working almost around the clock because it's obviously you can't test the lights at noon, so you gotta be here when it gets dark out. And uh -

Huddle: (09:46)
Fortunately it's dark at like four o'clock.

Coleman: (09:48)
That's right. Daylights savings send a lot of people mumbling, around about that. Our ops guys are perfectly happy to have an extra hour of, of night to get to work setting the lights up.

Huddle: (09:57)
So how many lights are we talking about now? What are we up to?

Coleman: (10:00)
So we, we have upped it every year that we've done the, done the show and we are now up to more than 4 million lights. I will be perfectly honest, we haven't stopped and counted every single one. So I can't - I know it's more than 4 million, but I can't tell you exactly how many.

Huddle: (10:15)
I think once, once you're over 4 million, it's just a lot of lights, right?

Coleman: (10:18)
It is. It is. But, but that's part of it. You know, you come over that first turn and onto the track and you see everything and it's just like, you know, to your point, if it's 4 million or four and a half million or whatever, like at what at some point it's just a whole bunch of lights.

Huddle: (10:33)
So yeah, it's a lot. So, I love the synchronization of the lights. What kind of process, what kind of time does that take to synchronize those lights with the music?

Coleman: (10:43)
It's a really fascinating story. So the guy that actually comes in and helps us set all those lights up is a retired music teacher. And so nine months out of the year, he's writing original Christmas music that you hear at his various light shows around the country and sinking those up through a computer program to blink with the lights, as he sets them up out in the field. So it's, it's a long process for him, but it's literally fiber optic cable and a laptop that we run out of one of our little portable units, uh, here in the infield. But, but a lot of it again is, is, you know, obviously, you plug the wrong light into the wrong place and it doesn't blink when it's supposed to. And so there's a lot of that testing that goes in during set up.

Huddle: (11:25)
I'm assuming that if one light bulb goes out, like half of them don't go out. Does that ever happen? I'm just wondering, cause I can't seem to get my Christmas trees to work right, and you guys have 4 million lights.

Coleman: (11:35)
I am always impressed with, with the crews that come in and set these lights up because I have the same thing. Like I, I'll go pull my strings out and, and half of them don't work. And I'm like, now what? You know, I can't have a half-lit Christmas tree.

Huddle: (11:47)
Right, right, right. My pre-lit Christmas tree and only half of it lights.

Coleman: (11:50)
But yeah, thankfully we've, we've, uh, gotten, gotten far enough ahead with technology that we're able to, you know, if we lose a bulb, it's not gonna ruin a whole Christmas display. So, and our guys are out there, you know, every night and they're looking around and making sure things look good cause we want it to be the best possible show and you know, we, we want it to feel, we want everybody that comes through to feel that magic. And if you go in and see half of the display out, you kind of lose some of that. So, um, it's, it's a lot of work to put into it, but those smiles are the ultimate payoff.

Huddle: (12:20)
When we come back, I want to talk to you about, uh, obviously we know the Christmas lights, but there's more than just the lights. There's the whole village and the drive-in movie. So let's talk about that right after we come back from break. Cool. All right, Jonathan Coleman with Charlotte Motor Speedway, is sticking with us. You stick with this too, right after these messages from our sponsors.

Commercials: (12:41)
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Huddle: (14:27)
Welcome back. Thank you for sticking with us here. As we are talking about surviving Thanksgiving and we're talking about the lights at the Charlotte Motor Speedway, which open next Friday, the 22nd. But beyond the lights, there's this whole Christmas village and the largest drive-in movie theater you could ever hope or wish for. Um, by the way, if I owned the Charlotte Motor Speedway, I'd do that every Friday night. I'd just figure out like Star Wars or something like that and just show it.

Coleman: (14:56)
Hook up your Play Station or your X Box.

Huddle: (14:58)
Exactly. That's what I'd do every, every Friday night. I'd totally do that. So let's talk about what's, what people can expect - when you get about halfway through the lights, there's the opportunity to pull off into the Christmas village. Tell us what they can expect out of the village.

Coleman: (15:13)
Yeah. I think the only thing worse than being stuck in your house with your family for the entirety of Thanksgiving would be stuck in your car or with your family. So, uh, you know, we want to give you that break and let you get out and stretch your legs.

Huddle: (15:24)
I have no comment on that, mother-in-law. I have no comment.

Coleman: (15:29)
I was gonna say, we should make sure our family aren't tuned in for that. But uh, no, the, the Christmas village is just a, a little break in the middle of the lights as you said. Um, we, we have kind of transformed what's typically the Infiniti garage during our NASCAR weekends into a bit of a winter wonderland. So you can um, we've actually got a brand new entrance this year. It's about a hundred foot long led light tunnel that you'll be able to walk right through to, again, kind of immerse yourself in that, that light experience. But then, on the outside of the garage, one side is a Bethlehem village. Obviously telling that story of the first Christmas, on the other side you have sort of a kids play zone, family play zone area. So we've got a 50-foot Ferris wheel. We've got a hundred-foot slide. We've got a fire pit so you can roast marshmallows and, and make s'mores. Um, you know, other kinds of games and rides activities for the kids.

Huddle: (16:18)
Do you still have the ice skating rink?

Coleman: (16:20)
We don't do the ice skating rink. So we've had a couple of years in a row of weather that was too warm, frankly for ice skating. And so we just decided we could better utilize that space with a couple of other things. So we've actually brought in a Ferris wheel that was a big hit last year. We'll bring that one back and do a few of the other. Um, you know, we've got a carriage rides, we've got a little electric train that the kids can jump in and ride around. And so lots of other different, different alternatives there. And then inside the garage itself, uh, obviously Santa is the big attraction, the big draw. So every Thursday through Sunday night when this is open, you know, this Christmas village portion is open, you can swing in and get a photo with Santa Claus. We've got a few food vendors in there, some, some local craft vendors. Give you a neat little twist on, on some holiday shopping, um, and then load you back up and have more quality family time for the last half-hour.

Huddle: (17:13)
So the Bethlehem village, that has real animals and everything in it? It's like a live nativity.

Coleman: (17:20)
Yeah, so, in the past we've done, we've actually had partnered with church groups and other organizations, um, to, to bring in live actors. We've had, um, a local, uh, animal group that's brought in some lab animals and that sort of thing. We're actually trying something a little bit different this year, you know, between juggling schedules with church groups and others to get folks in. And then also really wanting to tell the story of Bethlehem village and it being a little bit more of a, an attraction that's a little bit more an educational component. Um, we're, we're mixing it up and, and gonna try something new this year that's a little more storytelling. But it should be a good, it should be a good feature as well. And, and again, you know, the Thursday through Sunday, when this portion is open, um, you know, we really want you to have a little bit of everything. So you've got that storytelling and Bethlehem village, you've got the kids, stretch your legs, grab them a snack, that sort of thing. Um, and then of course, you know, getting those photos with Santa.

Huddle: (18:15)
So as we mentioned at the beginning of the segment, there's also the drive-in movie. What kind of movies are playing this year and how can people find out when each movie is playing?

Coleman: (18:24)
Yeah, really, one of the most popular attractions, and then you alluded to it a little earlier, is, is the 16,000 square-foot HDTV. Uh, it's, it's hard to wrap your head around even when you're in the grandstands. It doesn't look that big because you're still three quarters of a mile away from the screen. But when you're parked right down there in the infield in front of it, it, it is a really neat way to, uh, to be able to take in some of the Christmas classics. We'll have, goodness, Elf. We'll have the Polar Express, Home Alone, A Christmas Story, National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation, one of my personal favorites there.

Huddle: (18:59)

Coleman: (19:11)
And literally you just drive in, you park your car, you can tune the radio dial to, uh, to the appropriate channel, which is bugged up there in the screen, 101.3 uh, FM. And, and it's really neat to see folks. You know, they'll drive the pickup truck and they'll throw the blankets in the back or the lawn chairs in the back. And you know, just again, kind of getting back to building that tradition. You know, it's a really neat way for folks to come out and enjoy the movies and take a little break from the lights, you know, have an opportunity to really stretch the experience. And you know, I mean you can drive through the lights in 30 minutes if you want it to, but you, when you stop and add 30 to 45 minutes, an hour in the Christmas village and then as long as you want watching the movie -

Huddle: (19:41)
Sure. Cause they just kind of repeat, right. What time do they start?

Coleman: (19:45)
So we, we start to movies at about 6:30. So the, the light show itself opens nightly at six o'clock every night. So we want to give the first folks that are here nice and early, the chance to get through that first half of the show, weave their way in, find their parking spot. So we'll usually show it at 6:30. You figure most of these are an hour and a half, two hour movies. So we can play at a couple of times before we uh, you know, close the show up at 10 or 10:30.

Huddle: (20:09)
So real quick, tell us where people can find tickets and the movie schedule and anything else they want to know about the Christmas lights at Charlotte Motor Speedway this year.

Coleman: (20:16)
Yeah, the easiest thing to do is to check out the website, We'll have a schedule of all the different movies that are played throughout the month and a half of the show. But throughout the show we'll have different theme tonight. So I know we're working on some toy drives, canned food drives. We're going to do some special things with the schools where we'll give back a portion of proceeds if you show your kids student ID. So all of that schedule on information will be up at You can certainly purchase advanced tickets, but you don't necessarily need to, um, you can do that on the website as well. But the vast majority of folks will just come on out that night of and, and grab the tickets on their way in.

Huddle: (20:54)
What's the best nights to come?

Coleman: (20:56)
It's a great question. Um, it, it really depends on kind of what experience you're looking for. So Monday through Wednesday nights, we don't actually open that Christmas village. So it's just the drive through portion of the lights. If you're just looking to see the lights, you're going to have a little less traffic on those days, you know, that's, that's a great opportunity to do it. It's also because we're not opening the village, it's the lowest ticket price, so it's just $20 per vehicle. So you, you'd get the minivan, you pack the whole family in pretty good bargain for sure. As we get closer to Christmas, obviously things ramp up in general, but then Thursday and Sunday nights are going to be for the full show with the infield village. Those are really gonna be your, your less crowded nights. Um, obviously Friday and Saturday folks have tend to have more family and friends in town, more social gathering time opportunity. So those tend to be a little bit busier nights, especially as we get into mid December and that week of Christmas, you know, we just, we would encourage folks if you can come Thursday and Sunday, that's really the, the prime opportunity. If Friday and Saturday is it for ya, try to get here a little early so that you're at the front of the line and you know, maybe pack some card games or something that can help kind of entertain you while you're waiting till we get to show open.

Huddle: (22:08)
Maybe spring for those VIP tickets. So you can kind of skip the, the general admission line.

Coleman: (22:12)
We do have a fast pass line. Yeah. So for 10 more dollars, um, you, you can jump into the far right hand lane as you're pulling in. And, uh, and, and skip ahead of a, of a few folks as well. Not a bad thing if you've got young ones. Again, my two and my five-year-old, um, are always happy to spend my extra $10 to, uh, to jump ahead.

Huddle: (22:33)
Isn't it funny how that is? So since we are talking about surviving Thanksgiving, are you guys open on Thanksgiving night?

Coleman: (22:42)
We sure are. Yeah. It'll be a pretty popular night. Um, you know, but it is a good time when you've got family in down to come out and, and take it all in. So open every night. November 22nd through January 5th, with the exception of Christmas day. We know that Santa Claus has a big day, Christmas Eve, big night, Christmas Eve. So we give him a Christmas day off to recoup and rest up a little bit. But every other night, Thanksgiving night, new year's Eve, come on out and take in all the fun.

Huddle: (23:10)
Jonathan Coleman, director of communications with Charlotte Motor Speedway. Thank you so much for spending some time with us today. And, uh, we look forward to seeing you guys out there this holiday season with the beautiful lights. Come out and see them.

Coleman: (23:24)
I appreciate you having us. Um, you know, like I said, it's going to be a great show. Always really neat to see. You know, we don't sell a ton of advance tickets but we last year alone had had folks from 35 different States that bought those advance tickets. So it really is, the show itself is growing. You know, we, in all the research that we have done, truly believe it is one of the country's biggest drive-through holiday light shows. And I think if you come out and see it for yourself, you really won't be disappointed.

Huddle: (23:52)
Jonathan Coleman, thank you so much for being on the program.

Coleman: (23:55)
Thanks for having me.

Huddle: (23:56)
Stay tuned. We'll be right back after this.

Commercials: (23:58)

Huddle: (25:44)
Welcome back once again to Up Front with Cabarrus magazine. I'm here today at CERTEC automotive, which is one of our sponsors of the program. I'm sitting here with Chris McMickle. He is the all-knowing guru of, of cars in Cabarrus County in my opinion. And I wanted to talk to him because we are talking about surviving Thanksgiving, and of course we mean that figuratively, but you kind of have to do it literally too, which means making sure your car is ready for the Thanksgiving holiday, especially if you're planning on hitting the road. So first of all, Chris, uh, we thank you guys for your sponsorship of the program and thanks for coming on the program today.

McMickle: (26:23)
Thank you. I appreciate it. Thank you very much.

Huddle: (26:25)
So tell us, Chris, as people are getting ready to hit the road for the holidays, what are some things that they need to make sure they do without fail before they venture out?

McMickle: (26:35)
So, um, some of the basic things, uh, you definitely want to make sure that your battery is up to snuff, especially with the colder weather because you don't want to get stranded somewhere in a parking lot or anything like that. Um, other things you want to make sure you check is your, uh, antifreeze level and then your transmission fluid. Um, check your tire conditions because a lot of people travel and um, you know, in winter weather, whenever they're traveling and things like that. But mostly just your basic necessities, uh, antifreeze, battery and probably the condition of the tires, um, are the major aspects that you want to do. Also make sure your oil change is up to date to, because all tends to break down a lot more during the winter months. So, um, just make sure you just keep your basic maintenance necessities up to date.

Huddle: (27:24)
Is that a service that you guys provide here? Can I bring my car in and you guys will just check it out and do a whole whatever point check?

McMickle: (27:28)
Absolutely. Yes sir. Yes sir. Uh, also whenever we do our oil changes, we actually do a complete vehicle inspection. Uh, we check your belts, your hoses, um, the battery, check all your fluids, top them off, check the condition of the tires and everything. So, um, that's part of the services of our, uh, old changes as well.

Huddle: (27:46)
Chris, as we're getting into the winter months, in fact, today we're in the middle of a cold blast. So it feels like January outside. What are some things that people need to do, not only for the holidays but just getting their car ready for winter. Granted, our winters aren't as harsh as up North, but what are some things that people can do to make sure that their cars are ready?

McMickle: (28:04)
Um, just keeping an eye out, make sure that your antifreeze is good. Um, the levels correct where it needs to be, tire pressure and then also the condition of the battery. Here at CERTEC, we also do free battery charge for you so we can check it to see where the battery is at as far as condition-wise, if it needs to be replaced or, you know, what you're looking at. But uh, also the, the antifreeze and things of that nature.

Huddle: (28:29)
Very good. I can tell you from experience, CERTEC, they know their stuff. I've been taking my car to them for years and they have always taken great care of me and uh, and given me great advice along the way. Chris McMickle, thank you so much again for your sponsorship of the program and also for having me in today. Real quick tell everybody how they can, uh, find CERTEC online and where you guys are located physically. And then of course, how they can schedule an appointment.

McMickle: (28:53)
Yeah, you can actually get to our website, uh, uh, and schedule an appointment that way. We're right across the street from Casa Grande, here in Kannapolis, North Carolina, right next door to Valvoline. Uh, it's easy to find us online. You can also, uh, set up an appointment online or give us a call and set up an appointment either way.

Huddle: (29:12)
Chris McMickle, thanks a lot man. That's great advice and we'll be seeing you soon.

McMickle: (29:17)
Thank you very much. I appreciate it. Look forward to doing business with you guys.

Huddle: (29:21)
I want to thank our guests today, Jonathan Coleman from Charlotte Motor Speedway and Chris McMickle, from CERTEC Automotive. We certainly appreciate them being on the program and helping us survive the holiday. Guys, Uh, I make fun, I pick about family, but truthfully for me there is nothing more important than your family. Please treasure time. I said this and one of my editorials, I think I said it last year, in some way, shape or form, this Thanksgiving or this holiday season will be the last to be exactly as it is right now. And I say that meaning this. Not that someone is going to pass away, but people change. People get older, new babies come into the family, people move away. There are all kinds of changes that a family will endure throughout the year and right now in this moment, your family is exactly the way it's supposed to be. So treasure that moment. Treasure this time together. Gorge yourselves a little bit on Thanksgiving day. Spend some time. Watch some football. Go out, see the lights. If you're taking a trip, enjoy the journey.

Huddle: (30:28)
Be sure that you tune in. We have a two part series coming up over the next couple of weeks and yes, we will have a new episode airing on Thanksgiving day. We're going to be doing a two-week series on meeting your new representatives. We have four newly elected representatives in Cabarrus County, two in Harrisburg, one in Concord, and one in Kannapolis. And we are going to be introducing you to all four of those elected officials over the course of the next two episodes. Next week, We're very excited to have on Ian Patrick and Rodney Dellinger. They are the two new Councilman for the town of Harrisburg. They actually unseated two incumbents in order to gain those seats. And so we're very interested to talk to them about the town of Harrisburg. It's growth and what they expect to accomplish over the course of their first terms. And then the following week we'll be talking to Andy Langford and Darrell Jackson from the cities of Concord and Kannapolis, respectively, as they discuss their new terms and what they hope to accomplish in their respective cities. So make sure that you tune in over the next two weeks to learn more about your newly elected officials. Once again, we want to thank our sponsors at Atlantic Bay mortgage, Cabarrus Arena and events Center, Cabarrus Eye Center, CERTEC Automotive, Code Ninjas, Concord Downtown Development Corporation, Family Wealth Partners, Merle Norman Cosmetics and Edie's salon and Your CBD store of Concord. Always remember to support those that support us. I've been your host, Jason Huddle. Enjoy that turkey.

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