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Davis, California

Wednesday, April 17, 2024

So you think you’re a Picnic Day expert?

Everyone is gearing up for the Doxie Derby, great food and taking in the sun and greenery of Davis this Saturday. But before going out to campus, you may want to brush up on some little-known facts about one of Davis’ most important events of the year.

Picnic Day was originally created to offer tours of the dairy barn on the university farm.

While this is no longer the main purpose, Picnic Day still acts as a showcase for the UC Davis campus and what it has to offer, said Ascha Rothe, senior English major and Picnic Day publicity director.

“It’s an opening and I think the idea was that people could physically picnic on the grounds and enjoy the scenery that is Davis,” Rothe said. “It is definitely something that has evolved, but the Aggie pride is still the same.”

For nearly 50 years, Picnic Day has maintained an overall theme to relay a message to students, staff, faculty, family and community members.

“Every year Picnic Day has a theme. This year is ‘Then. Now. Always,’” Rothe said. “Over the majority of Picnic Days, this is a relatively new enterprise. The last couple of decades we have consistently had themes, though.”

Jennifer Mappus, a senior environmental toxicology major and chair of the Picnic Day board of directors, said that looking at the list of Picnic Day themes, one could see themes for Picnic Day starting in the 1950s and showing higher frequency as years went on.

“Some of them don’t have themes, and Picnic Day did start in 1909, so for 40 years there was no theme,” Mappus said.

All 200 (or more) exhibits that make up Picnic Day undergo an application process through the Picnic Day board.

In late January, an application for participation in Picnic Day is released. Anyone related to the UC Davis campus or community has the opportunity to submit an idea for an exhibit, along with a time and location.

“The only reason we turn down people is if there are safety issues or if they aren’t directly benefiting Davis with whatever they are trying to display,” Mappus said. “We get [over] 400 applications and 95 percent go through.”

Such things as the Chemistry Magic Show and liquid nitrogen ice cream to maggot art and cockroach races have all gone through this application process. Mappus said that some of the more popular events, such as the Doxie Derby that started in 1972, have even been adapted due to the popularity.

“All of the popular events have evolved due to the increase in attendance to Picnic Day and the continual growth of the university,” Mappus said. “More time slots for the various events were added and more space was needed to accommodate the increase in event attendance.”

Another unique fact is that students or faculty aren’t the only people allowed to apply and have an exhibit.

“I have [exhibits from] 13 nonprofit organizations that aren’t directly affiliated with UC Davis but help the Davis community as a whole,” said exhibits director Pritesh Naidu, a fifth-year biochemistry and molecular biology major.

From the start of Picnic Day planning this year, the board focused on being more eco-friendly.

Everything from application forms to confirmation requests were converted and made available online and sent through e-mail to save paper and ink. This is because this event is run by the Davis community and therefore encompasses one of the main ideals held by the community: going green.

“Picnic Day is working hard this year to incorporate as many ‘green’ initiatives as possible into our planning and executing of the event,” Mappus said in an e-mail. “[For the day of] we are working with Waste Reduction and Recycling Program to place more compostable and recycling bins in and around the Quad area. These bins will be monitored throughout the day by volunteers to make sure that the proper waste items go into the correct bin.”

Along with providing appropriate receptacles and volunteers to ensure their proper usage, Mappus also said that certain exhibits, such as the Children’s Fair, will be incorporating the concepts of recycling and environmental friendliness.

“The Multicultural Children’s Faire is going to be using recyclable items such toilet paper rolls, paper bags, used coffee grounds and plastic bottles, for their crafts,” Mappus said. “The Multicultural Children’s Faire Director, Jasmine Nasser, really wanted to focus on a ‘green’ approach and showing children that making crafts with recyclable items can be fun and easy.”

And one more fun fact: The mother-and-son cows that first walked the 97 miles between Berkeley and Davis were named Molly and Pete.

DEVON BOHART can be reached at features@theaggie.org.


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