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UC Davis Magazine

Volume 27 · Number 3 · Spring 2010

Photo: 1968 Picnic Day student committee

Tom Stallard sits on the hood of the tour bus and his wife, Meg, inside the vehicle in this photo of Picnic Day 1968 organizers. Also shown, starting at bottom left, are Pam (Wright) Procella, Jan May, John Hodgson, Cathie Poe,Dennis Vanderpol, Carol (Perkins) Rupe, Roger Klein, Kay(Zimmer) Morison, Bob Alessandrelli and Steve Rae. The Stallards, Woodland residents and active UC Davis supporters, are grand marshals of this year’s Picnic Day parade.

Aggies Remember

Confessions of a Picnic Day chairman

Putting on an event for 60,000 was easier than you might think.

Truth be told, it would have happened without me. Picnic Day 1968. Although I was the chairman, I got a practical lesson in organizational inertia. Of course, effort was expended, which produced some extra polish, but the basic fact is that Picnic Day was on autopilot. I wrote letters, answered the phone and checked the gauges from time to time.

I had served on the 1967 Picnic Day board as director of traffic and communications. This fancy title meant that I had to figure out how to get the cars parked and make it possible for key people to talk to one another. Well, at a certain point in the year, the phone rang and it was a guy from the ag staff wanting to know if I wanted the fields disked and rolled as usual. “Sure,” I said. Sometime later, I got another call asking if I wanted hay bales to block the closed off streets. “Sure.”

In those days, we wired the campus for field radios at all the closed street entrances and at all information booths. Well, the call came from the military science department asking if we wanted to use all the field radios again. And you know what I said — “Sure!”

The following year I was named chairman. As with the prior year, the phone calls kept coming, and I kept saying “sure.” As it was the ’60s and the age of “relevance,” we tried to emphasize content — meaning exhibits — rather than mere entertainment. My ill-fated attempt to terminate the sheep dog trials produced consternation. Today, of course, it endures and has been joined by such wonderful events as the dachshund races.

Sheep dogs aside, the planning went smoothly. My most important task was to appoint the 12 other people who would handle the different jobs. Looking back, I think I did pretty well. The guy I picked to head special events, Bob Alessandrelli ’70, went on to run Harrah’s entertainment program at the lake before heading up the Reno Chamber of Commerce. Another person, Meg Sneeden ’68, who headed up reception, became my wife. In fact, we arranged our marriage so that we could attend Picnic Day 1969 the day before the wedding. Of course I may have had something in mind when I appointed her or maybe it was just divine intervention.

My vice chairman, Dennis Vanderpol ’69, went on to become a key nuclear power station construction engineer for Bechtel. Roger Klein ’70, D.V.M. ’74, who headed construction, became chair in 1969. Of course we had a few issues. In those days, we had a Picnic Day hostess who would sort of be the face of Picnic Day. She gave talks promoting the event all over the region and north state. As charming as dear Kay Zimmer ’68, Cred., ’69, was and is, her driving was somewhat of a problem, and she managed to crash her car twice during these outings. Fortunately she was not hurt. Today she is married to another classmate, Jamie Morison, ’69, M.S. ’71, an arctic explorer on the faculty at the University of Washington.

My biggest humiliation was losing the cow-milking contest to the student body president at UC Berkeley, even after having practiced. This involved hauling the unfortunate beast from bucolic Davis to bustling Berkeley, specifically to those much-abused steps at Sproul Hall. My salvation was to point out that I was an econ major, highlighting the fact that Davis had become a general campus just a few years before.

We actually worked very hard dealing with hundreds of details just as boards before us had done and those since have continued to do. But what amazed me was the remarkable institutional momentum of this annual campus open house, for which every student board owes a great debt to the campus staff. It is all part of the wonder of Picnic Day. Folks love it. Families love it. The food sellers love it. And frankly, it has gotten better and better with the passage of time, which is why we go every year. Picnic Day 2010 could be the best yet. Don’t miss it!