DLM Main Nav Menu

Picnic Day Magic

Hi. I’m Walking Bob and I was heading up Fifth Street at 8 a.m., determined to finish my four-mile walk to the Chemistry Building to get some of those highly sought tickets for the Picnic Day Chemistry Magic Show. I was sad to see that I was already passing early morning, or still-going from the night before parties with kegs and red plastic cups in full use that early in the morning, but I was determined to finally get some tickets for this event.

Tickets were advertised to be given out beginning at 9:30, so I figured I’d be one of the first people in line if I got there at 8:30. Wrong. The line already extended out to the sidewalk and was wrapping back up the street. By the time they began handing out tickets the queue wrapped well around the chemistry building. But, I was successful, ending up with a ticket to see the 10 a.m. show and tickets for my son and grandson to see the 11:30 performance.

By 10:00, the lecture hall was packed and a dozen chemistry students in lab coats with different colored armbands were ready to begin the show. Chemistry Club President, Eric Donnelly, and Vice President, Brian Jacobson, had worked with their peers to develop a game-show format with Team Xenon and Team Krypton battling to outdo each other by performing chemical procedures that got things glowing, changing colors, blasting into the air, shattering or exploding to the wild cheers of the students and families in the audience.

The PowerPoint presentation and enthusiastic announcer mixed chemistry facts and chemistry reactions as the high-fiving teams showed how much smarter than fifth graders that they were.

Brian Jacobson and Matthew Dehghani wowed the crowd by igniting magnesium inside some solid carbon dioxide (dry ice) in the photo to the right.

By the time the smoke cleared and we could all hear again, the crowd filed out still filled with excitement. I heard a youngster telling her father that she was going to be a chemistry major in college and I will bet that all across campus kids were walking out saying, “I want to be . . . “ an entomologist or a veterinarian or a physics major or a plant scientist or . . . The families and students who went to the demonstrations and exhibits around campus were seeing what the University of California, Davis, is proud of and seeing the talented and hard-working students at their best.

Breylon Riley mixes barium nitrate and sulfuric acid.

When I’d had a full day and started the trek home, I passed people having trouble even walking down the street, people young and old who were so busy partying that they missed the chemistry show and the parade and everything that made Picnic Day a tradition for 96 years. I can only hope that the community and the university can find a way to save the Picnic Day I experienced so there will be a 97th Picnic Day for you to enjoy.

Comments are closed.