Every morning here at Fermilab, it’s the same routine.
I drive up to the guardhouse at the entrance, hand over my top-secret government security clearance, provide six forms of identification, and then have my retina scanned. Only then am I allowed access to the highly classified inner workings of the laboratory. Oh, and my ID card self-destructs every three days, just in case.
I’m kidding, of course, although I understand how we’d get that reputation. Fermilab is the top laboratory for particle physics research in the country, and you might think that would mean the entrances are covered with “Keep Out” signs.
The truth is, the Fermilab site is open to the public, every single day, and public tours and programs are offered on a regular basis. You only need to show a photo ID to get in. No security codes, no palm print scans. I promise.
The Fermilab site and the public areas of Wilson Hall are open each day from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. during the winter months. Starting in mid-April, when the clocks spring forward, the closing time changes to 8 p.m., and stays that way until mid-October. Our Lederman Science Center, a fun and informative place for kids of all ages, is open Monday through Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., and Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Once you’re here, you can take advantage of our network of bike and nature trails, you can fish in our ponds, and you can see our herd of bison. Fermilab’s 6,800-acre site hosts more than 1,000 acres of restored natural prairie, with dozens of species of native plants. It’s been a labor of love for our staff and volunteers for more than 35 years.
Speaking of the prairie, if you’d like to help with that labor of love, you can come by on Saturday, Nov. 3, for our annual prairie seed harvest. Every year, volunteers collect seeds from different species of native plants for our staff to spread around the entire prairie, ensuring a diverse selection. The harvest runs from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., with a free lunch provided. More info is here.
If you’re interested in the science of Fermilab, well, you’re in luck there, too. We offer free public tours every Wednesday at 10:30 a.m., the first Sunday of each month at 1 p.m. And the bottom two floors of Wilson Hall are open to the public as well, with exhibits and information available.
And I haven’t even talked about our special events, like our arts and lecture series. You can get much more information on visiting Fermilab here, or by calling the Office of Communication at 630-840-3351.
What I’m trying to say is that Fermilab is far from the imposing, locked-down federal facility you may have imagined. If you’re curious about who we are and what we do, come on by. You’re always welcome.
Andre Salles is the media and community relations specialist with Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory in Batavia. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or 630-840-6733.