April 15, 2008
Ninety-six dogs from throughout California will come to race at Picnic Day at UC Davis on Saturday, April 19. Some proud owners claim theirs is the fastest dog on four legs, and they have boasted about past victories and rigorous training regimens on their entry forms.
And while the competition for prizes and bragging rights is part of the 30-years-plus tradition of the School of Veterinary Medicine Doxie Derby, this annual running of the long-bodied and short-legged dachshunds is really just crowd-pleasing fun.
The races are among the most popular events with the 50,000 to 60,000 people who attend UC Davis' annual open house. The 94th annual Picnic Day, believed to be the largest student-run event in the nation, will feature more than 150 activities, including athletic and animal events, departmental exhibits, tours, lectures, performances and demonstrations. More School of Veterinary Medicine events at Picnic Day
"The dogs are darn cute, and it's fun to watch them run as fast as they can to get to their owners," said Cecily Bonadio, class of 2010, one of 20 veterinary students who organize and run the derby.
Sara Sammons of Davis, also a second-year veterinary student, will bring Nona, her standard-sized dachshund, to compete in the derby. "We're very excited," said Sammons, who proudly shared that her dog has won championships for field trials and conformation.
Nona, injured just before last year's derby, has recovered and has been practicing sprints in grassy parks. Like all devoted trainers, Sammons is wondering how her entry will adjust to the race-day footing of a tarp-covered floor. But she said Nona's experience tracking rabbits in field trials might give the dog an advantage when it comes to chasing the rabbit pelt moving on a wire in front of the derby dogs.
Dogs and owners will participate in a costumed pre-parade at 12:30 p.m., and races will begin at 1 p.m. on the floor of the Pavilion on campus. Amid the cheers of fans, the purebred dogs, wearing brightly colored jerseys, burst through starting gates and scamper down a 100-foot stretch to their owners, who call loudly and wave squeaky toys and treats.
The second-year class at the School of Veterinary Medicine organizes the derby, which has now closed registration, to raise about $2,000 to offset the cost of review sessions and practice material for licensing board exams, Bonadio said.
Tradition dates to 1909
The Picnic Day tradition began in 1909 when the University Farm invited the surrounding community to view its new dairy barn. About 2,000 people attended, bringing along picnic lunches to go with the coffee, cream and sugar provided by the university.
"The sense of community that this first Picnic Day fostered has since become an integral part of the event," said student Michelle Chan, chair of the Picnic Day board of directors.
This year's theme, Chan said, is "A Kaleidoscope of Voices."
"Out of the many voices that are heard, one message of hope and tolerance is expressed," she said, "just as in a kaleidoscope, a mixture of different shapes come together to form one brilliant image."
Although some events get under way earlier, opening ceremonies begin at 9:30 a.m. on North Quad Avenue across from Wickson Hall. At 10:10 a.m., the parade starts there and winds through campus and downtown Davis.
Honorary parade marshals are alumnus and chef Martin Yan and Antoinette "Butterscotch" Clinton, a local beatbox artist who became widely recognized as a finalist on NBC's "America's Got Talent."
Events, almost all of them free, will take place on campus throughout the day, and most will end by 5 p.m.
Special alumni events include:
* The Cal Aggie Alumni Association's launch of its new Vintage Aggies Wine Club with a wine tasting, 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. on Friday, April 18, Buehler Alumni and Visitors Center. For tickets and to R.S.V.P., please visit <http://www.alumni.ucdavis.edu/rsvp>.
* The alumni association's hosting of the 25th annual Picnic Day Pancake Breakfast. Open to all, the event will feature a performance by the Cal Aggie Alumni Marching Band. 7:30 a.m. to 9:30 a.m., Freeborn Hall. To purchase tickets and to R.S.V.P., please visit <http://www.alumni.ucdavis.edu/rsvp>.
* The Alumni Zone, which will feature an alumni registry, photos and more. 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., West Quad.
For more information, visit the Picnic Day Web site at <http://picnicday.ucdavis.edu> or call the Picnic Day office at (530) 752-6320.
* More on Picnic Day <http://www.ucdavis.edu/spotlight/0408/picnic_day_2008.html>