Picnic Day

Kiss a pit bull, build a robot: Picnic Day has arrived

By From page PD2 | April 19, 2013

That sound you hear — besides the Cal Aggie Marching Band-uh — is surely the pounding feet of galloping dachshunds. Or maybe racing cockroaches.

Picnic Day — the 99th Picnic Day — has arrived.

UC Davis’ annual free, student-run open house — jammed with more than 200 events — takes place Saturday, sunny or otherwise.

There will still be cow milking and a parade, but the UCD students behind the 99th Picnic Day have added a high-tech wrinkle most of their forerunners surely never imagined.

They call it the “Snapshot” challenge, so named for the theme they’ve chosen for Saturday’s campus open house. Here’s how it works:

Visit the Picnic Day website, http://picnicday.ucdavis.edu. Sign up. Then, wielding a smartphone, hustle around the sprawling campus. At 30 places or events, scan the posted QR codes. All that, for a chance to win a prize.

Get out your comfortable shoes and sunscreen. That makes one more fun option added to the more than 200 planned events and exhibits.

“It’s just kind of our way to promote all the events that are at Picnic Day. At the same time, we hope that by having something like this and having people go check out these events, it’ll divert the attention away from all the kinds of substance abuse we’ve had in the past,” said chair Jonathan Wu.

The 16 student directors are hoping they’ll hear good reviews and see them pop up on Facebook and Twitter — along with a second straight year of diminishing numbers on the arrest log.

“We want everyone to have fun and celebrate, but safety should definitely be top priority for everyone,” said Wu, who, when not heading up the planning of the largest student-run event in the country, is a fourth-year neurobiology major from Shanghai.

“My first time at Picnic Day gave me my first feeling of Aggie pride,” he said. “It was really great just to see all these students out, in force, celebrating what Davis is all about and enjoying themselves. For international students, or people who are away from home, it’s a day when they can really feel at home here.”

Picnic Day brings together the campus community, alumni and Davis residents “in a way other towns can’t, because they don’t have an all-encompassing event,” said Vice Chair Kevin Hadidjaja, a senior exercise biology major from Los Angeles.

Attendance numbers like 80,000, 90,000, 100,000 or more, maybe lots more, get bandied about afterward during an annual game of shrugs and ballpark guesses.

Last year, Wu and Hadidjaja were both busy helping run Picnic Day, in different roles, but as Picnic Day-goers they were both fans of the many animal events.

“When I went my sophomore year, the dog Frisbee show — that was absolutely amazing, absolutely incredible,” Wu said. “One of my personal favorites, even though people kinda cringe at it, is the cockroach races. And the Doxie Derby is always a must-see.

“People have a hard time coming out in the morning — they usually make it in the afternoon — but if you come out in the morning, the parade is really kind of the epitome of Picnic Day. This year, we have 68 entries.”

Hadidjaja said the directors are aiming for “a feeling of family fun.”

Let’s say critters are your thing. Picnic Day has got you covered.

You can pet horses, calves, lambs. Play with rats. Milk a cow (or a goat). See fish and a horse painted to show off its muscular anatomy. Kiss a pit bull (seriously). Watch dogs leap for Frisbees or stare down sheep.

More science, you say?

You can learn about clouds, tornadoes and wind at Hoagland Hall, then stick around for a forum on climate change. Build robots at Bainer Hall. Take part in games and puzzles at the Mathematical Science Building.

Take in a lecture on the frontiers of Physics. Learn to care for grapevines. Check out those crafty engineers and their Rube Goldberg competition.

Or maybe sports is your thing. There’s loads to chose from, including an open Aggie football practice, the annual Woody Wilson track meet, plus water polo, baseball, tennis and more.

Performances, they got plenty.

On three stages (ARC, East Quad and Silo), there’ll be hip-hop and gospel, funk and jazz, belly dancing, ballroom dancing and lion dancing. Listen and you’ll hear the brassy sounds of the Battle of the Bands shaking the Arboretum.

Looking for something a bit more unusual?

Join the alpine ski team on trucked-in snow, test your sniffer at the Robert Mondavi Institute’s sensory experience, check out the maggot art in the Briggs Hall Courtyard, see the Kendo Club demonstrate Japanese swordsmanship at the ARC or tie-dye with textiles at Everson Hall (after all, the Whole Earth Festival is just around the corner).

Snap a 3D picture of you and your pals at Mrak Hall.

Then dig into a liquid nitrogen ice cream and relax. It ought to be quite a day.

“It’s a labor of love,” said Paul Cody, the board’s staff adviser, “just as it has been 98 other times.”

Online: http://picnicday.ucdavis.edu

Cory Golden

Cory Golden

The Enterprise's higher-education and congressional reporter. http://about.me/cory_golden
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