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Davis, California

Sunday, April 14, 2024

Go behind the scenes with the Picnic Day board

With a university that prides itself as being connected to its city and one that has mastered the art of inexpensive, people-centric fun, there’s hardly an event more organically placed than Picnic Day. But as students, out-of-towners and alumni alike relish in the ceremony, there’s hardly an incentive to stop and think about how it’s all made possible year after year. There’s much to be discovered about what it takes to run Picnic Day that the average visitor doesn’t know but perhaps should to develop a deeper appreciation for Davis’ biggest event.

Despite rumors, Picnic Day is not an event endowed by the gods. In fact, it is the largest student-run event in the U.S.

“It’s an event close to heart so we try to keep it close to home,” said Jennifer Mappus, Picnic Day chair. “The best way to do that is to have it run by students.”

Mappus oversees a group of 15 other board members. Board meetings are held every week with each member hosting additional weekly office hours.

“We have to make sure everyone does their part,” Mappus said. “We usually exceed our minimum hour requirement.”

As chair, Mappus has been working on Picnic Day since last June.

“My main job and concern is working with the Davis community to ensure that Picnic Day runs smoothly this year,” Mappus said.

With the citywide holiday facing some bad press in recent years, including an accidental off-campus death in 2011 and a reported 545 calls to police in 2010, Mappus said one of her goals is to make sure these types of events don’t happen again.

“I attend a lot of external meetings to meet our goal, including Davis Alcohol and Other Drug Advisory Group, as well as meeting frequently with Davis Police and the UC Davis Police Department to work with them on things such as campus safety,” Mappus said. “Working with board members and making sure everyone is doing what they’re supposed to be doing is one thing, but working with the other groups and trying to make sure everyone’s interests are satisfied in preparation for the big day is another.”

For Mappus, the stress of it all is what is most rewarding in the end.

“I feel so honored to work with all these people and help so many individuals enjoy this one day,” Mappus said. “From students to UC Davis officials, some 650,000 people come out to Picnic Day. It feels great to have such a big role in it all.”

In making sure the big day continues for the future generations, Mappus says it is imperative to outreach to first-years and make sure they understand the promise of Picnic Day. She has entrusted the task to this year’s publicity director, Acha Rothe.

“We’ve had presence at a lot of events, including Decision Day,” Rothe said. “Being at events in person and having some food and snacks is our way of always making sure our face is out there, especially for freshmen.”

Given the bad press and the lingering stigma about Picnic Day being nothing more than an excuse for students to frolic around campus after excessive day-drinking, Rothe also found it important to visit greek organizations and sports clubs throughout the year in preparation for the event.

“I’m Greek myself and find it important for everyone to know how to have a good time without sacrificing Picnic Day for the future,” Rothe said. “With the fine zone expanded and everything that has happened in the past, our goal as board members is to make sure everyone is aware.”

One way the Picnic Day board has found to eliminate many of the troubles associated with the event is to keep it local. Rothe began working on press releases early Fall Quarter, deciding where they are going to be sent so advertising goes to local and immediately surrounding areas.

“We don’t want to make it seem like this is an open invite for all to come and party on our campus,“ Rothe said.

Keeping Picnic Day local is also something that is taken into consideration when talking about funding. Omar Gonzalez, business and administration director, has made it his mission to see that Picnic Day is properly funded.

While Picnic Day is partially funded by ASUCD, other funding comes in the form of sponsorships and donations. However, Picnic Day board members have traditionally tried to stay away from soliciting corporate sponsors.

“We never want to bring you Picnic Day sponsored by Verizon,” Rothe said.

Gonzalez has solicited sponsorships from the likes of Hallmark Inn, Allégre and West Village apartments and Tutti Frutti Frozen Yogurt.

“I had a quota of getting $6,000 and I’m happy to say I’ve already been able to double that in getting around $12,000,” Gonzalez said. “Most people don’t know that we work with such a small budget in putting on such a big event. The fact that we can do this is the most rewarding thing for me.”

So as first-years celebrate their first Picnic Day, while others seize the day in re-living theirs, the 2012 board members are collectively working to ensure that everyone is amazed.

“This year’s theme of ‘Then. Now. Always’ is perfect for the vision this board has for Picnic Day,” Mappus said. “This is the hallmark event of UC Davis. I want to see it reach its 100th, 150th, and 200th year despite not being alive to see it myself.”

ISAIAH SHELTON can be reached at features@theaggie.org.


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