Graduation Picnic Recipe. Start grassroots-style, nourish it yearly, and watch its popularity grow wildly.
Hatched in 1984 by students as an all-night bash meant for 50 people—news of the party spread, quadrupling attendance—it blossomed into today’s can’t-miss Grad Picnic for all grads and family. Organized by SCU since 1989, more than 6,200 attended in 2017. What are some ingredients?
As students, Scott Lamson ’85 (right) and Mike Copriviza ’85 (center) pioneered what has become today’s tented, white tablecloth tradition, under guidance from Paul Neilan ’70 (left), senior associate director for Alumni Relations. The initial party plan? Just some kegs and cassette players. But the boys' desire to include every senior in the festivities sparked ideas for a bigger event that would soon be taken over by the Alumni Association planning team and put on specifically for graduating seniors. Each year since, Paul has worked endlessly mastering every detail of the picnic from tents to tickets. And his finesse with the specialized seating arrangements is artful. Mike credits Paul’s masterful planning for making the annual celebration a perennial hit: “Without him, there wouldn’t be a grad picnic.” The secret behind that success: all those personalized touches. The payoff? A multi-thousand-person party that feels more like an intimate gathering.
The first grad picnics were informal barbecues known as “Billy & Copro” parties, a reference to the founders’ nicknames. Fans memorialized the gatherings by designing T-shirts. For early events, the organizers’ dads showed up to man the grills.
In student-run days, the casual gatherings boasted no live band or catered victuals. Music came courtesy of cassette players. But seniors who stayed through the morning enjoyed a free breakfast.
Live bands rock the party now. And in longstanding tradition, picnic goers gather in front of the stage for one dance en masse: to the irresistible Isley Brothers song “Shout.” Happily busy with food, libations, and conversation, revelers sometimes neglect to snap personal pics of key moments. True to form, Paul & Co. have that detail covered. They make sure a photographer is on hand to capture images throughout the picnic and party, never failing to snatch festive shots of the moment everyone gathers for the trademark Santa Clara group dance. After four years of intertwined trials and triumphs, a final coming together with music and movement makes for a truly memorable Bronco send-off into the next chapter.
A MOVEABLE FEAST
The Grad Picnic has found new venues in its 28-year history as attendance grew. From a debut in Alumni Park, trace its trail: Stanton Field (1990–97); Buck Shaw Stadium (1997); Stanton Field (1998–2007); and Bellomy Field (2008–present). As changes took place across campus over the years necessitating new picnic grounds, the Alumni Association continuously adjusted and restyled the event to suit demand and the times. The Grad Picnic that the SCU community knows today has been reinvented year after year to accommodate the growing number of grads who want to join in the University's biggest and—as some would argue—best annual party. Still growing in size, and in the affection the Bronco family shows it, whatever the next location or innovation may bring, the festive feast's standing as a highly anticipated commencement institution keeps going strong.
Admission is limited, demand is high—it’s a carefree way for grads to make one last SCU memory together. Snagging a ticket as a non-grad, however, is no easy feat. But for those determined to take part before, or after, their own commencement, there's more than one way to attend. In true SCU fashion, many share their love for the Bronco community by serving others; in this case, by signing on as Grad Picnic staffers. Each year, the Alumni Association hires students and alumni who do what it takes to make the day's magic happen seamlessly, serving up tasty treats, managing signage and seating, and chauffeuring less mobile guests by golf cart. For soon-to-be-seniors, it's a taste of what their own future Grad Picnic will look like, while alumni get to spend the afternoon reminiscing. Celebrating here: Sherryl-Anne Perez ’17 (center) with her mother, Bernadette, and brother, Andrew.