Sixth cancellation in 111 years: Picnic Day chair comments on decision

Sixth cancellation in 111 years: Picnic Day chair comments on decision

Photo Credits: KAITLYN PANG / AGGIE

Other Picnic Day cancelations due to WWII, outbreak of hoof-and-mouth disease, gym construction

The UC Davis administration announced the cancelation of Picnic Day on March 14, “as recommended by the ASUCD student organizers.” The event has been canceled five times before this since it began in 1909: As a result of an outbreak of hoof-and-mouth disease among cowherds in 1924, due to the construction of the gym in 1938 and from 1943 to 1945 during World War II.  

It was only five days prior to the announcement of the recent cancelation, on Monday, March 9, that it crossed Picnic Day Chair Nicole Deacon’s mind that Picnic Day might actually be canceled. Comments on the official Picnic Day social media accounts asking whether the event was going to be canceled gave her some pause, but at that point, it hadn’t yet been announced that finals were no longer to be administered in person. 

The announcement canceling finals was made the following day, as professors began cancelling classes for the week. Meanwhile, students discussed whether UC Davis would institute an online Spring Quarter, like other undergraduate UC campuses, and wondered what campus events would be canceled or postponed, as music festivals like Stagecoach and Coachella were postponed. 

“At our board meeting on [March 11], all the directors stayed after,” Deacon, a fourth-year statistics major, said. “I told them, ‘Picnic Day, if it happens, is not going to be what we expected it to be. We need to brainstorm some ways to mitigate the risk.’ At that point, we were still trying to find alternatives and think about how to be cognizant of the health risk.”

The night after the board meeting, Deacon recalled reading about the NBA season being suspended indefinitely and hearing about people affected by travel bans.

“We were continuing to get more and more very panicked phone calls asking why Picnic Day wasn’t canceled yet,” Deacon said. “And then Disneyland was closed, and someone commented on our Facebook page, ‘If Disneyland is closed, why is Picnic Day still going on?’”

Deacon and Vice Chair Caitlyn Liu, a third-year information and communication technology and English double major, and the two Picnic Day advisors met on Friday, March 13 to discuss what the right decision would be.

“The question very quickly shifted from ‘Why cancel Picnic Day?’ to ‘Why not cancel Picnic Day?’” Deacon said. “The final call was basically, ‘Do we cancel it, or do we postpone it?’” 

Deacon consulted Associate Vice Chancellor for Student Life Sheri Atkinson and, at 2:30 p.m., she gave her recommendation to cancel the event. Atkinson met with the chancellor at 3 p.m. and relayed the recommendation. Around 4:30 p.m., Deacon talked to Atkinson again and was told that the administration supported the decision to cancel.

“I sent an email to the directors and the rest of the board [on Friday night], and I told them to please keep this information confidential for now,” Deacon said. “And then we waited for the campus announcement to go out on Saturday. Our official Picnic Day announcement went out at basically the same time.” 

Each of the directors has been told to follow up with the people they were in touch with regarding Picnic Day arrangements to let them know the event was canceled. The “big thing,” according to Deacon, is the financial aspect. 

“The good news is that for most people, it’s just a matter of stopping whatever they had been doing,” Deacon said. “And thankfully, we had not really made any big purchases yet, so there’s no financial strain here. The really important thing is being able to return all the money.” 

The cancelation, along with all the other changes implemented as a result of COVID-19, is particularly emotional for Deacon, who decided to attend UC Davis because of her experience at Picnic Day when she was a senior in high school.

“Picnic Day was what made me commit to Davis. I was like, ‘This is super cool that a school does this,’” Deacon said. “Somehow I figured out that Picnic Day was a student-run event, so I knew that, when I came to campus in the fall as a freshman, I wanted to get involved. I found the Picnic Day table at the housing fair during Week Zero and put my email down.” 

In her first year, Deacon was an assistant director for the Children’s Discovery Fair at Picnic Day and found it “super rewarding.” After that, she decided that she wanted to come back as a director — she was the special events director during her second year and vice chair in her third year. 

“Wednesday, Thursday and Friday of Week 10 were very hard,” Deacon said. “I cried a lot those days. I’m just one of the many college seniors who is leaving their last [everything]. For me, it’s my last Picnic Day, and that obviously sucks. But there’s a whole graduating class, and we’re all kind of in the same boat here, where college is just not ending the way we thought it was going to. For me, it’s now less about Picnic Day and more about everything in general.”

Written by: Anjini Venugopal —  features@theaggie.org