As the University of California, Davis, celebrates the 100th anniversary of Picnic Day this weekend, Davis police say they will be out in force to ensure that festivities remain safe.
More than 200 events and exhibits are planned Saturday at UC Davis’ official open house, including concerts, dance performances and animal exhibitions. The campus parade and the Doxie Derby are also popular draws.
While Picnic Day activities attract families on campus during the day and generally remain calm, the weekend has been marred in some years by off-campus parties that involved excessive drinking, rowdiness and fights in the downtown area. The low point came in 2011 when a UC Davis graduate died at an off-campus party.
In 2012, the city expanded its Safety Enhancement Zone in downtown Davis to crack down on alcohol-related incidents. Violators were subject to double fines for public intoxication, public urination and smoking in non-smoking areas.
“Drinking in public is still illegal and a ticket for an open container will get a double fine,” said Lt. Paul Doroshov, spokesman for Davis police. “We pretty diligently enforce all that.”
Last year, UC Davis scaled down its promotion of Picnic Day to reduce turnout, and focused on students and alumni, rather than the larger community.
Still, Davis police made 42 arrests, including 23 for public drunkenness on the day of the event in 2013. One man was stabbed in a fight downtown. He survived.
The UC Davis Police Department couldn’t be reached Monday to discuss its preparations for Picnic Day. University officials referred questions to the campus police department and student organizers.
The theme this year is “100 – A Timeless Aggie Tradition,” with a focus on alumni events.
Picnic Day organizers are encouraging individual students to sign an online pledge to behave responsibly.
“Our No. 1 priority is the safety of everyone,” said Dustan Li, publicity director with the 100th Annual Picnic Day board.
He noted that Picnic Day has been an alcohol-free event in the past, and this year, it is smoke- and tobacco-free as well.
A number of sorority and fraternity leaders have signed the Greek Picnic Day Covenant to follow alcohol laws and encourage responsible consumption at parties.
“We hope everyone has an enjoyable time at this safe family event,” Li said.
This year, as was the case last year, Davis police will get help from other law enforcement agencies.
The UC Davis Police Department, Yolo County Sheriff’s Office, Woodland police, West Sacramento police, Winters police, California Highway Patrol, Amtrak police and Yolo County probation and parole will be on hand. Even the state’s Department of Fish and Wildlife will be involved.
“It’s going to be a lot – cops on every corner,” said Doroshov. “It’s always a concern when we have a lot of people drinking at any point.”
Doroshov saw little reason to think Picnic Day partying would result in anything comparable to riots that occurred over the weekend among revelers in Isla Vista near UC Santa Barbara. He said authorities have a contingency plan should such problems develop.
“I really don’t expect that will happen,” said Doroshov. “I really think our dynamic is different from Santa Barbara.”
The Safety Enhancement Zone in downtown Davis will be in effect from 6 p.m. Friday through 6 a.m. Sunday. The borders of the zone are: 8th Street to the north, Anderson Road to the west, Russell Boulevard and 1st Street to the south, and the railroad tracks on the east.
A number of businesses have also signed the Picnic Day Community Covenant to promote responsible hospitality practices.
“We will have a visible presence with Alcoholic Beverage Control,” added Doroshov, referring to the state regulatory agency.
Davis police began planning for Picnic Day in January, but they note the event officially takes place on campus.
“We just hope people would come out and enjoy it as a constructive family event. If they are planning to come out and cause issues, it’s the wrong place because we’re going to be out in force,” Doroshov said.
Call The Bee’s Tillie Fong, (916) 321-1006.