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Davis, California

Tuesday, February 27, 2024

Picnic Day through the years

The Aggie highlights notable photos from its archives of past Picnic Days 

By MARGO ROSENBAUM — features@theaggie.org

Since its start in 1909, Picnic Day has become one of the most well-known campus events for the UC Davis community. Students, parents, alumni, faculty, staff and local community members alike have come together to celebrate Picnic Day almost every year since the event’s inception.

The tradition of Picnic Day began in 1909 when about 2,000 people visited Davis to see the new Dairy Farm. After the ceremonies at the farm, attendees stayed and held a picnic. The university provided coffee and attendees brought their own food and utensils. 

The event became an annual tradition, known today as Picnic Day. The University Farm planned and sponsored the event for three years, and in 1912, a student committee took over. That same year, the first livestock parade was held.

Now one of the largest student-run events in the nation, Picnic Day remains a celebrated tradition among students and the greater UC Davis community. 

Since The California Aggie was started in 1915, the student-run publication has covered Picnic Day and its various festivities. This year for the 108th Picnic Day, The Aggie collected notable photos from its past issues to highlight the event’s return to an in-person format.

1920s: Picnic Day Floats

In this undated photo from the 1920s, students, faculty, staff and community members gathered on the UC Davis campus to watch the annual Picnic Day Parade. The following year, the Picnic Day program featured new events including the boys’ 3-legged race, boys’ pie-eating contest, baseball throwing contest, tug-o-war and a greased pig race.

1931: Picnic Day Committee

Pictured is the Picnic Day Committee, which planned the special event in 1931. That year, the souvenir brochures cost 10 cents each, and the Associated Students Store sold tobacco during the event.

1951: Livestock at Picnic Day

The lambs and wool produced by this Border Leicester-finewool crossbred ewe were on display during the 1951 Picnic Day. That same year, former California Governor Earl Warren came to Picnic Day. 

1974: Picnic Day Parade

In 1974, “Picnic Day Tricycles” rode through campus during the annual Picnic Day Parade. The first year the parade had a float was in 1917.

1979: Doxie Derby

Originally known as the Wiener Dog Race, dachshunds battle to the front of the pack. Now called the Doxie Derby, dachshunds have raced on campus every year since 1972. 

1988: Picnic Day Board of Directors

The Picnic Day Board of Directors planned the 1988 event. The year prior, the first-place float of the Alpha Phi sorority caught on fire during the annual Picnic Day Parade.

1992: Livestock Demonstrations 

Livestock demonstrations are a Picnic Day tradition, though The Aggie reported in 1992 that this younger visitor seemed suspicious of the whole event. In 2001, a sheep in the animal events area ran away.

2005: Picnic Day Set-Up

Student workers set up structures on the Quad before Picnic Day in 2005. Four years later, UC Davis celebrated its Centennial, and Picnic Day was chosen as one of the three major events for the celebration.

Written by: Margo Rosenbaum — features@theaggie.org


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