It was the 99th Picnic Day on Saturday at UC Davis. And it weren't for the message board - flashing ZERO TOLERANCE! - you might think the event was about animal science exhibits and cool modular robots and a day of discoveries in a festive college town.
But on the sprawling university campus, and particularly the pub-filled downtown of Davis, Picnic Day has also often been about rowdy crowds and imbibing to excess.
So Saturday, a heavy presence of police from the university, city and other agencies were on hand with thick ticket books and plastic handcuffs. But mostly they found a happy, mellow throng - estimated at 55,000 people - that enjoyed campus exhibits, music, food and, yes, some frothy beverages in town.
So Saturday afternoon, Anthony Kesich, a UC Davis graduate student studying high energy nuclear physics, was surrounded by friends hoisting amber-filled glasses at the campus-area 3rd & U Cafe. But he insisted, upon careful scientific analysis, that Picnic Day wasn't about the beer.
"Let's see," he offered, "you get a high number of people interacting in a way that they normally wouldn't because events have infused them with - not alcohol - energy."
Kesich, who normally is so busy with graduate research he seldom goes out, was imbibing with friends including animal biology grad student Catlin Cooper.
She began Picnic Day by getting up at 5:30 a.m. to milk cows and then helped set up the goat exhibit so children and their parents could enjoy the animals and the grad students could lecture on things such as transgenic technology and the pharmaceutical applications of animal DNA.
And you might have thought members of the campus chapter of the American Institute of Chemical Engineers were merely having a Picnic Day barbecue and serving bowls of ice cream. But the highlight was watching them make their chilly delights by flash-freezing cream, sugar and chocolate with liquid nitrogen.
"It's ludicrously cold," proclaimed junior chemical engineering student Gordon MaGill, 21. He declared the ice cream production, complete with hissing clouds of vaporization, a great and tasty way to instill interest in science.
After a turnout of an estimated 80,000 people last year, UC Davis officials scaled down promotion of Picnic Day this year. They focused more on a celebration for students and alumni than on a regionwide event.
In the past, Picnic Day has been tarnished by the the 2011 death of a grad student at an off-campus party, and drunken crowds. But by early evening Saturday, the university and Davis police reported only a handful of incidents.
UC Davis police arrested two students for intoxication and cited 16 minors for possession of alcohol or drugs. Four others were treated and released after paramedics took them to a local hospital for suspected drinking-related ailments.