Sunday, January 25, 2015

Tragic death unrelated to Picnic Day

April 19, 2011 |

A COMMUNITY TRAGEDY … in this close-knit town, even those of us who did not know former Davis High and Aggie baseball star Scott Heinig feel as if we know him now … and we feel the loss, too, though certainly not as deeply or profoundly as those who knew him well and have been telling the rest of us what a great human being and friend he was … his tragic death on Picnic Day has made us all pause, but mostly it has caused us simply to pray for his family and remember what a remarkable presence Scott has been in our town during his much too short life …

Because his death happened on Picnic Day, reportedly during innocent “horseplay” at a private party with a small group of friends, many have tried to link Scott’s tragedy with the dark side of Picnic Day that has plagued the event for the last several years … such speculation is entirely inappropriate and completely unsustained by what we know so far … I suppose it’s a natural reaction, given the intense scrutiny we’ve given to Picnic Day since last year’s debacle, but at this point there’s no evidence to suggest that what happened to Scott couldn’t have happened on a Saturday night in virtually any town in America where friends gather to have a good time …

Who among us has not rushed a child — sometimes young and sometimes older — to the nearest emergency room after he or she cracked a head on a hard surface while playing a simple game? … there but for fortune … for now, it’s time only to offer prayers of thanks for a life well lived, even if much too short, and prayers of sorrow and comfort for Scott’s family and friends who miss him so dearly …

POST-PICNIC DEPRESSION … I don’t know about you, but all the rosy statements about this having been a quieter and more respectful Picnic Day doesn’t jibe with the reality that nine separate law enforcement agencies, including city of Davis and UC Davis police, were required to keep a lid on things well into the early morning hours … “We had a number of fights and a number of public intoxications,” Davis Police Lt. Paul Doroshov told The Enterprise … “We ran probably two vans back and forth to the jail all night long. We’ve had a lot of disorderly conduct.” …

While final numbers are still pending, there were at least several dozen arrests and a large number of citations … KCRA, Channel 3 reported on its website that “Undercover officers with Alcoholic Beverage Control said they arrested or cited nearly 100 people.” … so the jury is still out on Picnic Day … to some longtime Davis residents, the notion that we even had to call in the Department of Fish and Game — apparently to control animal-like behavior — is nothing short of embarrassing … added Doroshov: “If it wasn’t for the outside agencies, I don’t know what we would have done.” …

I realize there may be times when an event with very large crowds — like the Fourth of July fireworks — will require some extra manpower … but if we can’t pull of a “family” event without calling on nine separate law enforcement agencies, maybe we shouldn’t be hosting it at all … just because we had an abundance of officers ready to pounce on any evildoers at the first sign of trouble doesn’t mean this was a great day for our community …

Whether Picnic Day 2011 was ultimately more tolerable than Picnic Day 2010 remains to be seen … but what happened this time around is still far, far short of acceptable …

TALE OF TWO CITIES … if you spent time on Picnic Day both downtown and on campus, you know there was no relationship between the two … once you crossed that magic line onto campus and left the beer-soaked streets of downtown Davis behind, it was a beautiful and festive day on a campus that knows how to throw an open house … sure, there were several arrests on campus, but for the most part, those large “No Alcohol” signs served their purpose … it must be an extreme frustration for campus administrators and Picnic Day organizers to see how the once pristine reputation of Picnic Day has been sullied by the alcohol-fueled scene downtown …

It used to be the advance publicity for Picnic Day talked about which floats and marching bands and dignitaries would be in the parade and what campus departments would be showcasing their research … now, when TV stations report on “preparations” for Picnic Day the night before the big event, they talk only of police presence and describe it as “one big party” rather than a campus open house …

PARTY FUND … perhaps a UC Davis economist can calculate how much profit would be lost to downtown bars and restaurants if all of them agreed not to serve alcohol AT ALL on Picnic Day … we could then all kick in 10 bucks to a fund that would be delivered to those bars and restaurants in exchange for their promise to keep the event alcohol-free … sure, some revelers will just buy their beer the night before, but trust me, when word gets out that no bars in Davis are serving alcohol on Picnic Day, the out-of-town element that has caused a significant amount of our troubles will disappear … and then the Department of Fish and Game can go back to worrying about fish and game …

MAD AS HELL … Ed at says Picnic Day wasn’t exactly a picnic on his East Davis street … “I don’t really want to see multiple Davis cops, West Sacramento cops, CHP and crime scene folks in my neighborhood,” he writes … “It’s time to cancel Picnic Day when you have to call Fish and Game wardens for back up.” … silly if it wasn’t so serious … “It’s 10:45 a.m. Sunday morning and there are still drunk people staggering to their cars. It’s time to cancel this party. It stopped being fun when the students stopped building floats over 40 years ago.” … indeed, Ed, those were the days … floats to rival the Rose Parade, with serious weeks-long competition between the various living groups to build the best one …

“Now it’s just a waste of police resources. It’s embarrassing. I don’t mind people having a good time, but good grief.” … I, too, remember a kindler, gentler Picnic Day, though that was when this was exclusively a campus event … still, if we can ban public cigarette smoking all over town, ban plastic grocery bags and tell people what they can or can’t burn in their fireplaces, doesn’t anyone have the guts to suggest not serving alcohol downtown for one single solitary day a year? …

— Reach Bob Dunning at Comment on this column at



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