Some Davis residents are hoping to bring back the glory days of the annual Picnic Day Parade, when floats that rivaled those of the Rose Parade made their way past excited crowds that stood a dozen deep in places.
Up until the 1980s or so, UC Davis students carefully crafted floats representing their sororities, fraternities and other organizations. Some of the floats were so big, they barely made it through the parade route.
Longtime Davis resident Sharla Cheney recalls one with a massive ship that had to have its mast lowered in order to get past trees along the route.
Memories of those parades led Cheney to jump on board when she heard that a move was afoot to bring back the big floats for this year’s parade. The new twist: Davis would be divided into five neighborhoods — East, West, Central, North and South — with residents of each neighborhood teaming up to build a community float representing their part of town.
Whether it was the enormity of the task or simply too little time, just two neighborhoods ended up participating — Central and East — but participants hope their efforts this year inspire everyone to join the fun next year.
The East Davis float, spearheaded by Shelley Dunning, is themed “East Davis: Where the Sun Rises First” and will feature such geographic landmarks as the toad tunnel, the Pole Line Road overpass, the cemetery and more. The animals of East Davis will get their day in the sun, including toads, wild turkeys, coyotes, owls and chickens.
Jenna Makus designed a layout for the float, which will fill a flatbed trailer donated by Davis Waste Removal. Other East Davis businesses sponsoring the float include Grocery Outlet, Bikram Yoga, MAK Design+Build, Blisswork Bikes and Vander Hamm Tire Service, which donated space for float building.
Dunning said finding local sponsors proved surprisingly easy.
“We weren’t asking for much, but they were happy to do it,” she said.
Those businesses will receive recognition on the float in thanks.
All week, East Davis residents — adults and children alike — were busy crafting papier mâché decorations for the float at Vander Hamm.
Cheney had planned to help with a North Davis float, but when too few people showed up for a planning meeting, those who did decided the project would be too difficult to pull off with too few hands.
So Cheney has joined the East Davis crew instead, and hopes the results will inspire more residents to participate next year.
“I think this will plant the seed,” she said.
Over in Central Davis, meanwhile, residents also were hard at work all week on their float, which features a model of an old-fashioned Kodak Brownie camera and provides “snapshots” of the people in the neighborhood.
Organizer Julie Langston said the group first started planning the float back in February, and initial emails and phone calls resulted in “a lot of energy and enthusiasm and people who wanted to participate.”
Some 45 people have played a role in the project, with Nancy Chadwick designing the float, Will and Cammie Portello donating a 16-foot trailer and Sally Ryen providing garage space for building the float.
The total cost of supplies came to about $500, Langston said, with the Chamber of Commerce and multiple individuals donating to the cause.
Like other participants, Langston hopes the Central Davis float will inspire more residents, as well as city clubs, teams and organizations, to build floats for next year’s Picnic Day Parade.
It doesn’t have to be a big project, she noted.
“You can go from a real simple design to a more elaborate one, but they all have a place in the parade,” she noted.
— Reach Anne Ternus-Bellamy at [email protected] or 530-747-8051. Follow her on Twitter at @ATernusBellamy