Family Day at Sandia

By Stephanie Holinka

Friday, July 05, 2019

Registration begins for Labs-wide show and tell

1959 family day visitors look up at test vehicle
1959 — A crowd gathers to view a test vehicle in Building 865.

Photos courtesy of Sandia Lab News

Sandia is getting ready for this year’s Family Day Saturday, Sept. 7, in New Mexico, and Saturday, Sept. 14, in California.

1959 letter printed in family day brochure
1959 — Labs President Julius Molnar welcomes families.

Family Day has been a part of Sandia culture since 1959, when 15,000 participants in New Mexico, 3,100 at the California laboratory and 300 from the Salton Sea Test Site came to Sandia sites to see where people performed important work for the nation. A few years later, in 1962, the Tonopah Test Site hosted its own event.

Sandia historian Rebecca Ullrich said there have been 12 Family Days (sometimes also called Sandia Day) in New Mexico, at least 14 at Sandia/California, and at least two at the Tonopah Test Range.

The 1966 New Mexico Family Day is documented as the most widely attended, with around 17,000 participants.

Active Sandia employees can register to bring their families to this year’s event at the internal Family Day website, where participants can also find event details and a complete list of security requirements. To bring foreign national visitors to Family Day, hosts must contact the Foreign Interactions Office helpline at 505-844-8263 as soon as possible for advice and assistance.

Below, a few current Sandians share their memories of attending Family Day as kids. 

Family Day Memories

“Tommy Glauner, my grandfather, worked at the Labs for 40 years as a staff member designing original W88 radar. I came to Family Day in the late ‘80s/early ‘90s, when I was around 9-10 years old. My grandfather at the time was working in Bldg. 821. As a kid, I remember thinking ‘those are the coolest windows!’ I also remember how excited my grandfather was to show us all of the different areas and speak about the significant technological advances the Labs was making. My grandfather was, and still is, very proud of what he did for the nation by working at Sandia.”

Classification manager Carly George

family day visitors in a dark room peer into a lit copy machine
1959 — Faces light up during a visit to the photo lab.

“I was a sophomore in high school at the 1976 event, and we came to Sandia with Mr. Puariea, my friend’s dad. We walked through what I think was Bldg. 806. There was the standard LN2 shattered banana demo, and another one where the air was sucked out of a ping pong ball and it imploded. Stuff like this led me into engineering. I later became a Navy Nuke Submariner for 20 years, and eventually came to work for Sandia.”

ES&H analyst Marc Williams

large crowd of visitors
1972 — Visitors tour a row of exhibits in Building 840.
1970s family stands in front of old-fashioned computer
1972 — A family tests out an early desktop computer.

“I came to Family Day sometime in the mid-to-late ‘90s. Karen Current, my mom, was a manager in IT. My stepdad, Fran Current, also worked here, and my husband brought me to Family Day before I became a Sandia employee in 2015. I loved going over to the Solar Tower for solar cookies and learning about the sun’s energy. As a high schooler, I remember trying out a digital tool that was being used for 3D modeling — there was a joystick that the user could hold and mold the material on the screen with their hands.”

Designer Stacey Reynolds

crowd peers down into Z machine from above platform
1986 — Curious visitors take a peek inside the Z machine.

“I’ve been at Sandia for nearly 37 years. I came to Sandia as a teenager with my dad, Eloy
Montoya, who was a computer operator back when we had the large mainframes. I liked touring the different areas around the Labs and watching the demonstrations.”

Business manager Rosemae McKillip

boy picks up machined metal shape
1986 — A boy checks out metal shapes at the machine shop.
kids and mom crouch on ground in front of short robot
1986 — A mom and kids see eye-to-eye with a robot.