UC Davis Shines Through on Picnic Day

LeShelle May walks in the Picnic Day Fashion Show.
LeShelle May wore a Red Dress designed by Manlin Song, a graduate textiles student, in this year's Picnic Day Fashion Show. (Karin Higgins/UC Davis)

Saturday was the campus’s 104th Picnic Day, but it was the first for the campus’s seventh chancellor.


“As new Aggies, this is the Aggie tradition we’ve been looking forward to the most,” Gary S. May said at the start of the day’s parade, adding that he and his wife, LeShelle May, were “anxious to experience as much as we can.”

They crisscrossed the campus, taking in various events, and hosted an ice cream social at the Chancellor’s Residence. And LeShelle May spent time in the literal spotlight, walking the runway in the UC Davis Fashion and Design Society’s Picnic Day Fashion Show.

“They just assumed I could pull this off,” she said of what was to be her first time in a fashion show. “I think I can hang with the young models here.”

Trystan Velasco demonstrates pose backstage at fashion show.
Trystan Velasco, left, practices a pose with a model backstage before the Picnic Day Fashion Show. (Cody Kitaura/UC Davis)

She added: “Be gracious in your reviews.”

See how May and others did — watch the full fashion show on YouTube here.

The dress she wore was part of the university’s Red Dress Collection, which raises awareness that heart disease is the leading cause of death among women.

Manlin Song, a second-year master’s-degree student in textiles, watched joyfully as May took the runway. “It’s the best gift ever for my graduation,” Song said of May’s wearing her dress not only in the fashion show, but for an earlier photo shoot. “I’m too happy — I’m almost gonna die.”

A wide range of student designs were on display in the fashion show, which featured collections designed by 19 students as part of their final projects for the “Signature Collections.”

Trystan Velasco, a senior design major, said he took inspiration from traditional dances of the Philippines. Demi Chang, a junior design major, treated her collection like an art studio project, using a progression from cardboard boxes to chicken wire covered with household objects to show a deconstruction of the concept of the self, leading to a greater connection to the outside world.

Gary S. May and LeShelle May help orchestrate a marriage proposal at Picnic Day.
"From the 'Other duties as assigned' section of my job description," the chancellor joked on Facebook — he and his wife helped Spencer Anderson propose to Mandy Cochran ’07 at Picnic Day. (Sam Sellers/UC Davis)

The fashion show wasn’t the only big event the Mays helped make happen. On the Vanderhoef Quad, just after a group photo orchestrated by the Cal Aggie Alumni Association, the Mays unfurled a banner for Spencer Anderson — a banner he had made asking Mandy Cochran ’07 to marry him. Anderson didn’t attend UC Davis, but he chose Picnic Day to propose because he knew how important the event is to Cochran — who said “yes,” by the way.

Erica Verde smiles as woman signs up for information.
Doctoral student Erica Verde looks on as mother Lindsey Gardiner signs up for more information on the Language Learning Lab. (Cody Kitaura/UC Davis)

Elsewhere, the family-friendly atmosphere of Picnic Day was the main draw for many — but it was always connected with the work UC Davis researchers are doing. Children marveled at (and asked if they could be lifted by) examples of drones that are used to measure crop health from the air, while others peered into ant farms used to demonstrate how groundwater flows.

Arts and crafts took center stage at the Children’s Discovery Fair, but doctoral student Erica Verde had research on her mind as she looked for parents who would allow their children to be part of studies the Language Learning Lab conducts on how infants learn words.

Crowd of people on Quad during Picnic Day.
Picnic Day drew thousands of people outside to "Where the Sun Shines." (Karin Higgins/UC Davis)

Throughout the day, the one constant was the warm weather — the clear sky and 82-degree temperature made this year’s theme, “Where the Sun Shines,” all the more appropriate.

Ralph Hexter at ice cream social.
A break from the heat: Provost and Executive Vice Chancellor Ralph J. Hexter stops at the Chancellor's Residence for some ice cream. (Karin Higgins/UC Davis)
Chemistry Show explosion.
Hot indoors as well: The annual Chemistry Magic Show demonstrates the explosive reaction of gases. (Gregory Urquiaga/UC Davis)

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