Blake Bellinger expected his first Picnic Day as a UC Davis student to be pleasant and safe. Instead, the 21 year-old transfer student severely injured his ankle – the result of an ill-fated attempt to jump off a high ledge near the Richards Boulevard underpass.
Bellinger’s story is one of several from last year’s Picnic Day. Every year, students and the general public face the consequences of over-consumption of alcohol, one of the key downsides of the campus’ annual open house which typically attracts thousands of people.
This year’s Picnic Day is this Saturday.
“I would say that Picnic Day definitely brings out the party animal in everybody,” said Bellinger, a junior psychology major.
As a result, he suggested police be on high alert in order to prevent criminal activity such as fighting and vandalism.
Lieutenant Matt Carmichael of the UC Davis Police Department said that his department is gearing up for another Picnic Day with especially high security, utilizing a sizeable bike team to get through the immense crowds.
“I can tell you that historically Picnic Day is such a family event,” Carmichael said. “But the amount of alcohol use can have a negative impact,” he added, referring to occurrences of urination, vomiting in public and littering.
Meanwhile, local businesses are also preparing for the event.
Ciocolat, a dessert eatery located on 301 B St., is expecting large crowds on its busy corner.
“We have had people open the back door to our kitchen and steal things off our rack,” said Ciocolat owner Kate Hutchinson.
Hutchinson said that as a lifelong Davis resident, she loves Picnic Day but has to be more careful now as a business owner.
“Overall I think [Picnic Day] is a very positive thing. We just have to be sure that people don’t take things,” she said.
Uncle Vito’s, a pizza restaurant and bar located on 524 Second St., will be opening its doors at 9 a.m., allowing partygoers to start drinking early.
“I don’t think it sends a negative message,” said Beth Pavoni, assistant manager at Uncle Vito’s, referring to the store’s early opening. “While it is a drinking holiday, we are open because many families come down for the parade, and we are right on the parade route.”
While Pavoni said that last year’s Picnic Day was mostly incident-free, she did say the restaurant is hiring extra security guards from an outside company for the night.
Overall, though, most businesses are excited for the extra revenue Picnic Day generates.
“Downtown Davis welcomes Picnic Day,” said Joy Cohan, director of the Davis Downtown Business Association. “It’s a wonderful celebration of campus and the campus connection to downtown.”
Cohan said she doesn’t think the unruliness resulting from alcohol is an overriding concern because it only affects only a small minority of those participating in the event.
“We’re super excited,” Pavoni said. “The anticipation is killing us. We’ll be excited when [Picnic Day] comes and we find out everything goes smoothly,” she said.
CHINTAN DESAI can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.