CHANCELL-ING: Making Plans for Picnic Day

Basketball teams ride on top of antique fire engine in Picnic Day parade.
The parade is a staple of Picnic Day. (Gregory Urquiaga/UC Davis)

I’m thrilled that Picnic Day is returning in person this month. Like nothing else, Picnic Day brings past and present Aggies together to celebrate all that makes UC Davis shine. Our campus “open house” day, full of activities and fun for all ages, is set for Saturday, April 23.

Blue graphic of Chancellor Gary S. May with text: Gary May Chancell-ing. A town-gown newspaper column.

What a way to reconnect with our broad community after living virtually for two years. Once again, we’ll be showcasing our world-class research, our experts, our animals and our unique programs. I can’t think of a better way to welcome visitors and residents who can discover or rediscover all that UC Davis offers.

The excitement generated by this special day reminds us of the bond UC Davis shares with the community. It’s been this way since 1909, when our campus served as the University Farm. The neighbors were invited to celebrate the opening of a new dairy barn, and about 2,000 people showed up, many of them with picnic baskets, to enjoy the day and soak in the sun.

A ‘rebirth’

Now, more than 70,000 people participate in a typical year, bringing a different vibrancy to campus. I know local businesses and restaurants benefit from this boost of visitors, too.

So much has changed on campus and in the world since the original Picnic Day in 1909. One thing, however, has remained the same: the communal spirit of friendship and celebration.


This year will feel like a rebirth. In 2020 and 2021, our tenacious and creative student organizers shifted Picnic Day to online activities, where participants could enjoy craft workshops, yoga sessions and virtual tours of our campus departments from remote locations.

I commend our student organizers, past and present, for their wise and thoughtful planning during the pandemic and this year. For many of our students and their families, this will be their first Picnic Day.

This year’s theme is “Rediscovering Tomorrow,” which sets that tone of revitalization and optimism, one that I wholeheartedly support.

The parade grand marshal is Dr. Nam Tran, a professor and senior director of clinical pathology at UC Davis Health. Dr. Tran was instrumental in developing UC Davis Health’s COVID-19 testing strategies and a member of California’s COVID-19 Testing Task Force.

The rest of the day then gets underway. You can see the full list of activities on the official Picnic Day website.

More in-person events

We’re looking forward to more in-person activities, including the Whole Earth Festival, May 6-8. The Class of 2022 undergraduates will celebrate in a big new way this year, in three larger ceremonies, outdoors, June 10-12. Later this year, the Mondavi Center will celebrate its 20th anniversary, and you can count on another season of world-class performances and events.

In the meantime, LeShelle and I look forward to seeing you on Picnic Day. We’re grateful to be part of continuing this proud Davis tradition.

Chancellor Gary S. May’s monthly column appears first in The Davis Enterprise and then in Dateline UC Davis.

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