It’s the big event of the year for Davis, the one local event when everybody says, yes I should get myself down there for that. Picnic Day has been a feature of the UC Davis spring calendar for about ninety years. It is the largest student-organised open house event in the US, when the departments swing open their doors and put on all sorts of fun events, often involving animals (the university began as an agricultural school, and still has many resident cows, some of whom apparently have windows in their stomachs, which must be a pane in the arse). I had to miss last year’s Picnic Day due to working – I still got to see the parade as it marched past the bookstore though – so I was really looking forward to this year’s event. I particularly wanted to see the famous Battle of the Bands event, a band-off between marching bands that is apparently lots of fun. I never got to find out, though, because this year it pissed down, so we just said sod it, and went home.
We did see the parade, though, marching past the bookshop – a surprising number of people took part, either covered up beneath layers of plastic, or braving the elements dressed up in whatever their department represents (the Classics dept, for example, were all robed in skimpy Roman togas). The legendary “California Aggie Marching Band-uh!” led the way (silly name, I know, but highly beloved and very popular – click here for a ridiculously long and detailed history of the organization), followed by all manner of madness, tractors and the like. My favourite paraders (apart from the giant cow) are the quirky wheeled contraptions invented by eccentric Davisites – you often see these guys around town, bobbing up and down on two great tires and the like. I should write a blog entry all about these guys, but other than the wierd spectacle and the odd sight downtown, I know nothing at all about them – they are as mysterious to me as a golf club to a pelican. Don’t ask where that phrase just came from.
We attempted to leave downtown Davis and cross the bollard divide into the land of the UC, where the real fun was to begin. I was interested in seeing the band-off, and the doxy derby (sausage dogs racing each other, I’m told), but the rain got the better of us. We tasted some brand new UC Davis olive oil, got some free vines at the viticulture and enology department (look the word up if you don’t know what it means; I went for an interview with them once, and I thought it was something to do with insects), but couldn’t bear to keep going. Some picnic. Still, I heard that it continued, albeit with most events cancelled. A few days later, I read a letter in the college newspaper from a rain-disgruntled student saying that Picnic Day should be moved to May. Despite the fact we’ve had hardly any rain this year, and that that it is usually very warm and sunny in mid April. Please. I was bummed it rained, but you know, these things sometimes happen. Honestly, this guy should be grateful – in England, if there’s a picnic or a parade or a holiday of any kind, you expect it to rain. Sure, getting drenched was a downer, but it did kind of remind me of home.