Aztec Museum and Pioneer Village will celebrate Founders Day on Saturday


AZTEC — Aztec Museum and Pioneer Village will return to the 1960s during the annual Founders Day celebration on Sept. 16.

The event began in 1984 as a way to recognize people who have made significant contributions to Aztec. Founders Day will kick off at 10 a.m. with a parade and will continue until 2 p.m. at the museum, 125 N. Main Ave.

"I think Founders Day recognizes life in Aztec, how it's changed," said Jimmy Miller, the museum board's president.

The 1960s followed a decade of rapid growth in Aztec. Miller said the U.S. Census reported about 800 residents in 1950. By 1960, the census data showed Aztec at approximately the same size it is today.

The 1960s was also a time of volunteerism and community-oriented attitudes in Aztec. In 1963 the city was awarded the "All American City" recognition after residents volunteered and donated money to build a road between Aztec and the community of Navajo Dam. Miller said the 19-mile road took less than four months to complete.

The museum will also honor the Sandel family for their contributions to the city, as well as to San Juan County.

In 1964, Jerry Sandel and his parents, Wayne and Sally Sandel, opened Aztec Well Servicing. The company may be the largest private well servicing company in the United States, Jerry Sandel said Friday during a phone interview.  

Jerry Sandel said the company has operators Pennsylvania, Texas and southern New Mexico.

While the company operates in major oil and natural gas areas throughout the country, Jerry Sandel said his family is committed to keeping the headquarters in Aztec.

"This is still our home," he said.

In the 1970s, Jerry Sandel decided to give back to the community that supported his family's company. He was elected to the New Mexico House of Representatives in 1971 and served as a state representative until 2000. In 2002 he ran as the Democratic candidate for lieutenant governor.

Jerry Sandel passed down his interest in giving back to the community through public service to his son, Jason Sandel, who served on Farmington City Council from 2006 until 2014.

Hannah Grover covers government for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4652.


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