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  • Randall Benton / Sacramento Bee file

    Engineering student Thon Fou Saeyang explains an electronic engineering exhibit to visitors Calahan McColley, his cousin Maya Ginney and his sister Rylee McColley at 2013’s Picnic Day in Davis.

  • UCD Library Special Collections

  • UCD Library Special Collections

    Picnic Day, 1909. The first unofficial picnic event at the University Farm at Davis (later the University of California, Davis).

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100 years of Picnic Day: Everything that mooves you

Published: Thursday, Apr. 10, 2014 - 5:37 pm
Last Modified: Sunday, Apr. 13, 2014 - 10:34 am

This year marks 100 years of Picnic Days at UC Davis: That’s a lot of udder pulling, parade floats floated, experiments showcased and off-campus beer and burgers consumed.

Through the years, it has been a day to show off the outstanding research being done at the University of California, Davis. And a day to have fun.

Woodland Vice Mayor Tom Stallard, a Davis grad and former grand marshal, notes that it is the day each year that the lab doors swing open, exhibits are in place, and research is explained.

It’s also a time for small-town joys such as the annual parade, chocolate and olive oil tasting, musical performance and fine art.

“And dogs, yes, dogs,” said Stallard. “There are exhibitions of many breeds, skills such as sheepherding, and races featuring dachshunds.”

Stallard said one must come to several Picnic Days to get a broad sample of all that is offered. Purported to be the largest student-run event in the United States, Picnic Day is free and open to the public.

More than 50,000 people accept the invitation, flooding the college town and the leafy campus renowned for agricultural research. The first Picnic Day was a quiet affair and university officials hope that this year will be fun but free of drunken revelry that has marred some editions of the event.

Here’s a look at Picnic Day through the years, courtesy UC Davis, UC Davis Magazine and Associated Students of UC Davis:

1909: First open house held on the University Farm was BOB: bring your own basket. The university supplied coffee and cream for those who brought their own cups and spoons.

1912: The parade prominently features livestock. Floats came later.

1924: An outbreak of hoof-and-mouth disease cancels Picnic Day.

1938: A rain-caused construction delay of a gym that was needed to house part of the festivities forces cancellation.

1940s: During World War II, the event was canceled for several years.

1951: Students pushed wheelbarrows to Berkeley for publicity, mimicking bovine ultra-marathoner Molly, the cow that was walked to Berkeley earlier in the century.

1962: Gov. Edmund G. “Pat” Brown is grand marshal of the parade.

1972: The Weiner Dog Race, now called the Doxie Derby, was introduced.

1987: The first-place float burned.

2001: A sheep in the animal events area ran away.

2007: A parade entry built with a small helium-filled blimp floated away.

2012: While tens of thousands lawfully enjoyed Picnic Day, police cited 25 people on campus, mostly for alcohol-related offenses, according to a Bee story. Downtown, police arrested 53 people and cited 150, mostly for being drunk or having an open container of alcohol.

More information:

UC Davis Magazine: 100 Picnic Days

Additional historic images from UC Calisphere

Davis police to be out in force for Picnic Day's 100th anniversary

From The Bee, May 18, 1914: Students of Farm


Call The Bee’s Bill Lindelof, (916) 321-1079.

Read more articles by Bill Lindelof



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