59.8 F

Davis, California

Wednesday, April 17, 2024

The Editorial Board’s perfect Picnic Day

Hint: the only way to succeed is to accept that it will, in fact, not be perfect




It’s inevitable: when you open Instagram on Saturday afternoon, your feed will be flooded with pictures of small dogs racing on a transformed collegiate basketball court, cow-print bucket hats and screenshots of peoples’ BeReals with Chancellor Gary May. If you’re not in the know, you might be confused — what makes April 15 different than any other day? (Sorry, people whose birthdays are on April 15).

Well, it’s the third Saturday in April. And ever since 1909, this time of year in Davis, California, has been synonymous with Picnic Day.

Picnic Day is simultaneously an open house, student fair and, unofficially, the biggest partying day in Davis, drawing thousands to campus for all-day activities, exhibitions, animals, live music and more. But even for the seasoned attendee, planning the perfect Picnic Day is a challenge. When you’re up against crowds of up to 70,000, an overlapping schedule of dozens of events and trying to balance the activity preferences of everyone in your group, the pressure to make your short 24 hours live up to the Picnic Days of lore can be overwhelming. That’s why we’re here today to help you make the most of your Picnic Day.


Part One: Take care of yourself


It is the college student’s way to throw our physical and mental well-being to the wayside in search of fun, but we encourage you to actually prioritize taking care of yourself during the event. It can get hot walking around outside in the sun for several hours, so make sure you apply plenty of sunscreen, wear sunglasses or a hat to protect your eyes and face and stay hydrated. 

This is doubly true if you choose to participate in partying and/or alcohol consumption. Be aware of your alcohol intake and have a plan in place to make sure that you don’t put yourself in the position of driving or biking under the influence; instead, take the bus, have a friend drive you or use UC Davis Safe Rides to protect yourself and others around you. Getting caught biking while drinking, carrying an open container of alcohol or doing anything else typically illegal can result in doubled fines throughout much of Davis on Picnic Day.

Also, if you struggle with anxiety or are easily overstimulated by large crowds, take that into account while planning and make sure you give yourself the time to take a break in a quieter place if needed.


Part Two: Attend some (not all) on-campus events


So much is happening on campus during Picnic Day that it could be spread out over a week and you still wouldn’t have the time to see it all; accepting this up-front will minimize the crippling effects of FOMO. It’s okay if you don’t get around to everything, or even most things. Try to be present in the moment and enjoy where you are and who you’re with, because that’s what will stick with you, not the chemistry magic show that you couldn’t get into despite waiting for hours (or at least, that’s what we’re telling ourselves…).

That said, there are some Editorial Board must-dos that we feel obligated to recommend to you. The cockroach races, fashion show, battle of the bands, craft center open house and dance-off competition are some of our top favorites. Check out the online schedule of events to get a sense of what your personal priorities are for the day, and do some light planning while still keeping an open mind. Sometimes your favorite exhibit ends up being one you stumble on by mistake!


Part Three: Explore downtown Davis


It might be hard to pry yourself away from all the exciting activities happening on campus during Picnic Day, but taking a break to go downtown is worth your time. On Saturdays, Davis hosts its famous farmers market from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m., and the Davis Art Market will be taking place across the street from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Both of these events contribute to making Davis what it is, and on a day that’s all about celebrating our favorite cowtown, it feels right to pay tribute to the role that local artists and Apple-a-Day juice play in making Davis feel like home. 

A few streets down, you can catch a show at the well-known live music hotspot and co-op Turtle House from 12-8 p.m. Head over there for yet another showcase of the talent of local artists, this time in the form of eight featured bands.


Part Four: General tips and vibes


First of all, we recommend you bring a lunch. While Davis does have many great dining options, the crowds can make the experience of trying to find food more akin to the cornucopia scene in the first Hunger Games than a relaxing dining experience. Simply packing a sandwich, or at least some granola bars to eat while you wait, can eliminate a huge stressor. 

Second, recognize that Picnic Day is a family event. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t have a good time. But recognize that for one day, the proportion of children on campus below the age of 12 will be exponentially higher than it usually is, and try to help UC Davis live up to its reputation as the Hufflepuff of the UCs by being kind and patient with these young visitors. In summary, don’t be mean to kids (and drinking on campus isn’t allowed on Picnic Day). 

Don’t feel pressured into doing anything you don’t want to do, and don’t feel like you have to have the perfect, Instagram-worthy day in order to somehow prove yourself as a true UC Davis student. But consider taking the opportunity to go a little out of your comfort zone and try something new. For many graduating seniors this year, two out of four Picnic Days during their time at the university were held virtually due to COVID-19, and if the pandemic has taught us anything, it’s that we should make the most of the time we have. Milk a cow, try your hand at animal trivia or eat some nitrogen ice cream, and in doing so take part in a 100+-year-old tradition that’s become woven into the fabric of UC Davis.


Written by: The Editorial Board