At EXPLO, we believe gathering to share a meal and our minds is inherent to being a community. It’s an important element of our summer programs, and a practice we strive to replicate throughout the year at the Exploration Center with various pot luck lunches, chili cook offs, dip and dessert competitions — even a recent MRE demonstration in honor of Veterans Day.  


For the last seven years, EXPLO staff have come together for a healthy plate of thankfulness, camaraderie, and intense food competition that we call Thanksploration. Each of our 40 year-round employees brings a favorite recipe — some traditional, some… experimental — and we celebrate all of the many things we have to be thankful for (including our EXPLO families, of course!). We write our gratitudes on construction paper turkey feathers, and one-by-one affix them to our (also paper) Turkey of Thanks. And, unlike the hours-long post-feast clean up many of us experience after 40 folks sack the stuffing, the mashed potatoes, and the green bean casserole, we somehow manage to have all the leftovers wrapped and dishes washed in just 15 minutes.

Thanksploration-History-of-Dishes-Blog-ImageHighlights of Thanksplorations Past

  • The 3-dimensional bread cornucopia of 2016
  • A surprisingly intense cranberry sauce competition
  • 40 miniature one-bite pumpkin pies
  • A mashed potato bar with all the fixins
  • The SpaghettiOs and hot dog jello ring of 2017* 
    *not sure if this was actually a highlight, but it sure was something


Traditions are what make an organization “sticky.” They’re the things that keep you coming back and tie you to the culture of the place. Experts may not agree on how many times you have to do something for it to qualify as tradition — twice? Five times? Twenty? — but with seven years of Thanksploration under our (possibly expanding) belts, it’s safe to say that our annual gathering to give thanks is a sticky one. And sweet, savory, and undeniably delectable.