Picnic Day Shows Many Sides of Campus

People wave to Unitrans bus in Picnic Day parade
Unitrans’ iconic double-decker bus is a Picnic Day parade fixture. (Gregory Urquiaga/UC Davis)

From a recreation of a 1950s parade float to an activity asking attendees to imagine new public art, the new and the old were on display at Picnic Day Saturday (April 20).

Sheri Atkinson
Sheri Atkinson

UC Davis’ 110th student-run open house started with thousands watching a parade of campus and community groups, led by Parade Marshal Sheri Atkinson, associate vice chancellor for student life, campus community and retention services in Student Affairs.

“It was such an honor to serve in this role,” she said. “I enjoyed awarding the floats as well as riding in the parade.”

She presented a half-dozen awards to participants, including the loudest group (Veterans Success Center) and the best representation of the “Picnic Palooza” theme (University Retirement Community). But the award for the best vehicle and float went to a team from Archives and Special Collections at UC Davis Library, who celebrated the 75th anniversary of the School of Veterinary Medicine by recreating a 1957 float with tiny veterinarians tending to a giant Scottish Terrier.

Black and white photo of parade float with dog and text: Every day has its dog
The 1957 float, created by students of the then College of Veterinary Medicine. (University Archives Photographs, AR-013, Archives and Special Collections, UC Davis Library) 
Parade float with dog and text: Every day has its dog
And the recreation float, created for the 2024 Picnic Day by staff members with Archives and Special Collections. (Kevin Miller/UC Davis)

“It was a real team effort and a lot of fun,” said Kevin Miller, who leads the department. He said no one on the team had built a float before and they only had one reference photo of the original creation, so they spent a lot of time watching tutorials on YouTube before getting started. 

“We had a sketch and a plan by March 23, so about a month out, and that allowed us to start ordering and gathering supplies,” he said. “We had the wood frame completed by April 7, the chicken wire on and sculpted by April 14, and the floral sheeting and all other details completed in the three days before Picnic Day.”

Envisioning Eggheads

Close up photo of miniature clay Egghead sculpture
Attendees made their own Eggheads out of clay... (Gregory Urquiaga/UC Davis)
Egghead style papier-mâché creations on the grass
And papier-mâché, taking some home and leaving some to display. (Karen Nikos-Rose/UC Davis)

Elsewhere on campus, the Jan Shrem and Maria Manetti Shrem Museum of Art was also celebrating history and looking ahead with activities encouraging visitors to participate in the “Year of the Eggheads,” a celebration of the 30th anniversary of the final installation of Robert Arneson’s iconic campus public art. 

A prompt in an “Egghead Garden” asked: “What kind of Egghead would you create if you could add another public sculpture to the series on campus?”

Throughout the day, nearly 4,000 people visited the museum, and about 500 created their own miniature Eggheads from clay or papier-mâché. Some made Egghead-like faces, but others branched out to create everything from a UC Santa Cruz banana slug to an intricate octopus that a group of visitors spent an hour and a half making, said Cesar Chavez, manager of visitor experience at the museum.

“It was the coolest thing to see,” Chavez said. “They were just so focused.”

He said the activities at one of the entry points to campus were a good way to help visitors connect with the full-size Eggheads they were likely to see throughout the rest of their day.

Much, much more 

Students make ice cream with liquid nitrogen.
Attendees looking to cool off could try ice cream made with liquid nitrogen. (Gregory Urquiaga/UC Davis)

Picnic Day staples like the Doxie Derby, laser maze, the Battle of the Bands, the Children’s Discovery Fair and more helped fill out the day for the tens of thousands who attended. 

Visitors made maggot art, climbed into a fire truck, took home plants and sported hat shaped like cows or dinosaurs.

 See a Picnic Day photo gallery from UC Davis Magazine.

Media Resources

Cody Kitaura is the editor of Dateline UC Davis and can be reached by email or at 530-752-1932.

Primary Category

Secondary Categories