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Los Alamos Science Fest offers a mix of history and technology

SANTA FE, N.M. — It’s no secret that Los Alamos is one of the country’s leading hubs of science and technology.

But the clandestine city sequestered high atop the isolated Pajarito Mesa almost certainly would never have existed without the Los Alamos Ranch School.

“With the roads and housing already in existence in Los Alamos, the town was ideal for the needs of the project, making the ranch school an integral part of our town’s history and legacy,” said Kelly Stewart, marketing manager for Los Alamos County.

The existence of the Los Alamos Ranch School was a big factor in locating the Manhattan Project on the isolated mesa. (Courtesy of The Los Alamos Commerce Department Corp.)

Since this is the 100th anniversary of the founding of the Ranch School, the city’s Los Alamos Science Fest (, July 13-16, will include significant events tied to the centennial, said Ryn Herrmann, spokeswoman for the Los Alamos Commerce & Development Corporation, the fair sponsor.

Tops on the list are a chance to visit some of the homes in which such notable Manhattan Project-era scientists as Robert Oppenheimer and Hans Bethe lived.

The homes will be open on a limited basis as part of Science Fest, Herrmann said. The Bethe home has been open for a while and is part of the town’s Historical Walking Tour and contains a Cold War exhibit, but “as long as I’ve lived here, I don’t ever remember the Oppenheimer house being open to be peeked in,” Herrmann said.

In an evening geared toward adults, the Ranch School Night on July 13, is a campout of sorts.

It will give adults the unique opportunity to go back to summer camp with a party at Fuller Lodge with dinner, drinks, live music, campfire stories and songs, root beer floats and s’more wars.

A replica of “Fat Man,” one of the first atomic bombs built at Los Alamos and later dropped on Nagasaki, Japan, is one of the displays at ScienceFest.

A live auction of props from WGN’s short-lived “Manhattan” TV show will follow.

“We ended up getting a lot of the props, so we’ll be auctioning off things like old typewriters, beautiful maps, signs,” she said. “It’s a chance to get some neat souvenirs, pieces of history.”

As for the ScienceFest itself, each day features different events, and throughout there will be daily Atomic City Van Tours, celebrating the history, archaeology, geology and scenery of the Los Alamos area with 90-minute tours. Guests also can check out a self-guided spy tour, because where there are secrets, there are spies. See where Los Alamos’ three spies lived, worked and played.

Visitors can check a number of different aspects of science at Science Fest, including robots.

July 12 will be a time to learn to pack a mule just like the Ranch School boys did. The Pajarito Environmental Education Center will be presenting “Burro Packers” at the Los Alamos Nature Center from 6:30 to 8 p.m., with demonstrations on a live burro.

A scavenger hunt will take place on July 15.

Download the app and cultivate your curiosity by heading out on a wild and crazy scavenger hunt. You can discover some of the best parts of Los Alamos and ScienceFest 2017 through this interactive contest and compete for a prize that will be awarded to the participant collecting the most points.

“Whatever your interests, Science Fest has something for everyone,” Stewart said. “This year’s events feature many unique opportunities, and we encourage all to come out and celebrate Los Alamos’ rich history and culture of being the ‘place where discoveries are made.’ ”