Sunday Commentary: Picnic Day Has Earned Its Stay



It will be some time before we get the official police statistics from Picnic Day this year, but I think I can save people the trouble.  The record will show that people were ticketed for drinking too much.  Some disturbed the peace.  I saw a case of resisting arrest, and I saw the aftermath of a fight where a man got his face possibly slashed in front of his young daughter.

But, for the most part, things were calm.  People were out there having fun, whether it was on campus, near campus or in the downtown.  Some people told me it was an out-of-town group in the downtown.  But from what I could see on the ground for nearly 11 hours, there weren’t a lot of problems.

Officials calmed down on the police presence early in the day, but began ramping it up in the afternoon.  Much of the time, the police sat back and watched.

Earlier in this week someone suggested that the Safety Enhancement Zone was not “a safe-and-sane sanctuary where families with young children could put down a blanket with a basket of food and sit back to enjoy the festivities.”

The Safety Enhancement Zone is actually a big place.  Most of the areas that I went to in the SEZ would have been perfectly safe to bring my young kids.  The downtown was amazingly calm for most of the day.  Yes, it was crowded around some of the bars and eating establishments that served drinks, but you are not bringing your kids to KetMoRee on Picnic Day.

So yes, I would have avoided G St on Saturday, avoided Bistro 33, avoided Tres Hermanas, and a few other hot spots, but again, not much to do there anyway.  There was no problem walking downtown, most people were polite and courteous.

A lot of stores and even some restaurants shut down – that’s their loss.  There is no reason why they could not have done their normal business.

My point of writing this is as follows.  Will there be a lot of tickets and some arrests because some people could not limit their drinking consumption?  Of course.  There are people who will be bothered and disturbed by that.  But really, so what?  So you have one day in one of the part of the town where people are drinking a bit more heavily than some would like.

We have to look at the overall picture.  In 2010 there were huge problems with Picnic Day – establishments were opening at 6 am to serve alcohol and so, by the time mid-morning rolled around, you already had a large contingent of drunk people, many from out of town with nowhere to go but to get to the downtown.

In 2010, we were talking about 516 calls for service and 33 arrests, including an assault on a Davis police officer responding to a fight in front of the Starbucks coffee shop.

Then there was the string of sexual assaults in the downtown, and a bar was forced to close temporarily after a fight erupted with chairs and other furniture being tossed.

As far as we can tell, none of this occurred this year.

Authorities have also fixed some of the problems.  Two years ago, there were no restrooms available, which practically forced people to utilize less than legal means to relieve themselves.  This year there were a number of portable restrooms throughout the downtown.

Water was also a big issue previously, but that seemed to have been resolved, as well.

From our perspective, Picnic Day is not going to be perfect in terms of people’s conduct.  Any time you have a large group of people who are drinking, some of those individuals will drink too much and some of those who drink too much will cause a problem – that problem could be that they make the foolish decision to enter their vehicle or it could be that a disruptive behavior occurs.

Picnic Day has seemed to have achieved a good balance.  There are places and times where families can bring their kids, and have a good time without hassle.  There are places where students and other young people can drink.  We seem to have enough police to handle the problems – perhaps still too many sitting around with little to do, but better that scenario than not enough if trouble were to emerge.

For some, the 72 tickets in the SEZ from last year was too much.  Last year the citation number fell from 200 in 2011 to just over 100.  So it was progress.

On the other hand, Chief Landy Black remarked last year, “There’s far too much alcohol-fueled disorder going on.”

Chief Black said, “Neighborhoods might have been a bit tamer, but we didn’t see a significant difference downtown.  Plenty of disorder and some violence.”

“It’s really a shame that that’s what this has come to,” he added. “That’s not what the City of Davis or the university wants to be known for.”

We get it.  That is his job to figure out ways to reduce problems.  But from our perspective, things were pretty quiet on a Saturday night.  You had people, some caused some disruptions, but those disruptions were isolated, they did not escalate and they were handled quickly and people moved on with their evening.

That is the way it should be, and I think we should all be able to live with this, once a year.

—David M. Greenwald reporting


About The Author

David Greenwald is the founder, editor, and executive director of the Davis Vanguard. He founded the Vanguard in 2006. David Greenwald moved to Davis in 1996 to attend Graduate School at UC Davis in Political Science. He lives in South Davis with his wife Cecilia Escamilla Greenwald and three children.

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8 thoughts on “Sunday Commentary: Picnic Day Has Earned Its Stay”

  1. Robb Davis

    A few observations: I spent most of the day (after the parade) on campus and it was great. I saw no problems but rather lots of people having a good time in more venues than one could ever visit in a day. I also had occasion to ride along 8th Street between Anderson and F four times throughout the day and, bizarrely (to me), there were throngs of people walking along the north side. One loud group of men were yelling about how they were north of 8th now so “what are you going to do about that?”–as if that zone were a free for all or something. There are no bars north of 8th and while there were house parties I simply could not see the fun or logic in “partying” up there simply because it was out of the “SEZ”. Strange…

    The parade was great and after the difficult week that Davis and the nation has experienced it was really good to see so many smiling faces. I hope the idea of “neighborhood floats” takes off again because they were fun and East Davis’ was really nice.

    Finally, why don’t we, as a city, decide to essentially “extend” the pedestrian zone that ends at the campus’ edge at A Street to the entire downtown (with B open to traffic)? We could encourage civic groups to put up tables (like the departments and volunteer groups do on campus), encourage shops to have sidewalk sales and restaurants to serve food (but no alcohol) outside on the street. By doing this we could “reclaim” downtown as a civic and family space. Just a thought.

    I am hoping when the results are in that we will see that this year’s event was calmer and more trouble free than last year’s.

  2. SODA

    Thanks David for an early report!
    I was at the track meet where my husband officiated and it was nice to see HS and college kids competing….wholesome fun and some amazing events. Then we went over to Battle of the Bands which is our favorite. Again, it struck me that THIS type of event is what Picnic Day means to me at least. Lots of families and the kids having such a great time participating in the music ‘competition’. We left before dark to bike home and there were still many people on the lawn. The downtown scene seems so different to these. I wondered if the downtown folks just come for that or have they been on campus all day? Guess it doesn’t matter.

  3. Growth Izzue

    David, imo you’re article states how most people in Davis feel about Picnic Day. It’s a great showcase for our community and the college and yesterday can only be seen as an overall success. Anytime you get over 100,000 people gathered you’re going to have a few problems, but it’s well worth it and it’s only once a year. I was downtown and didn’t see any problems whatsoever, just people enjoying the day.

  4. medwoman

    Like Robb, I split my time between downtown and the campus. In response to SODA’s comment, being out most of the day, we saw a number of the same groups of people on campus and out in the community. Starting from about 8:30 when we walked to Cafe Bernardo for breakfast and parade watching, we walked slowly through campus catching multiple events on the way to the sheep dog trials and then back through downtown in the late afternoon. By about 3:30, some young people near the alcohol serving “hot spots” were starting to show the effects of their day drinking, but most were smiling, happy and just enjoying a great day. From my house near
    2nd and J we could clearly hear music and partying until about 11 pm when the noise dropped significantly.
    It was non disruptive and actually quite enjoyable from a couple of blocks away.

    Overall, from what I saw yesterday, I would agree with Robb’s suggestion of extending some of the campus type activities into the community. Yesterday would have been a great opportunity for some of the shop keepers to sell small items and promote their stores. I see it as a lost opportunity based on the problems of 2010 ( which caused me to retreat rather than even trying to get onto campus by foot ) that did not really apply to this year’s celebrants.

  5. Jim Frame

    My observations pretty much jive with David’s. We went to the parade and later to the UCD baseball game, and everyone we encountered was calm and having a good time. We weren’t downtown after dark, though, so we missed most of whatever trouble occurred.

    The only thing that marred the day for us was when “Thomas” — a young adult; we didn’t get a very good look at him — knocked on our front door around 10:00 p.m. “just to visit.” Thomas was acting very strangely, way spaced out and kind of trying to fit himself against an inside corner of our porch. When my wife — who was talking to him through our kitchen window — replied “yes” to his question “Am I making you uncomfortable being here?”, he left, and the police were unable to locate him a few minutes later. The whole event had a very high creep factor to it, though my guess is that Thomas is just a college kid who ingested more of whatever drug he took than he was accustomed to taking.


  6. nvn8v

    I too was on campus yesterday and found it to be an awesome family environment. I saw no fights, no sad faces, and the few intoxicated people I saw were simply having a good time with everyone else. I talked with the UCDFD staff at their open house and they seemed to think calls were down from prior years. I think the future of picnic day is secured.

  7. Ryan Kelly

    The parade was the best run in many, many years. The east Davis float was fun. There were no gaps between entries, so the enthusiasm built. The on campus activities were great. I noticed lots of portable bathrooms available, many different things to see and do, and lots of family groups. i didn’t see any drinking or drunk people, even at the music venues. Leaving campus, I saw a few overly drunk young adults and a couple who were snagged for having an open container by officers dressed in plain clothes (pretty sneaky). I left the downtown area around 3:00 pm and it was busy, but upbeat. The officers I observed were clearly not having a good time, but they might have just been tired and the day was far from over. The evening was quiet and calm. Very nice day. Kudos to this year’s organizing committee!

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