University welcomes returning alumni in annual Pajamarino celebration

This weekend marked the return of alumni to UC Davis and students were out in full force to welcome them back at the annual “Pajamarino” event held this past Friday evening.

Pajamarino first started in 1912 when students would sneak out of their dorms the night before the homecoming game and gather at the train station to meet arriving alumni.

Although the event has changed a little – most alumni no longer arrive by train and almost nobody shows up in their pajamas anymore – students still continue the tradition.

This year’s event offered a number of enticing attractions for attendees including an assortment of booths serving up free food, a pie-eating contest, and performances by the UC Davis break-dancing team, Taiko drummers, Lounge Lizards and the Liquid Hotplates, a cappella groups on campus.

The free food was the luring factor for pie-eating contest winner Mike Stuart, a first-year law student.

“My brother convinced me to come out tonight,” Stuart said. “He won the [the pie-eating contest] last year so I guess the title is staying in the family.”

“This is his first year, but definitely not his last,” said his brother Jeff Stuart, a senior Ph.D. candidate in computer science.

Nicholas Stringer, a junior engineering major and second place winner of the contest said this was his first time partaking in a pie-eating contest.

“They don’t really have these [food-eating contests] back home,” said Stringer, who is an international student from New Zealand. “I didn’t really taste [the pie] … I was moving pretty fast.”

One of the most anticipated appearances of the evening was a performance by the California Aggie Alumni Marching Band-uh! along with the current Marching Band-uh!

Members marched into the station wearing an array of crazy costumes, some of which are also a tradition.

“It’s nice to see that the trombone section is still wearing the trenchcoats,” said Tawny Yambrovich, a 1991 UC Davis alum and member of the alumni band. “I started that trend … Band-uh! was the best part of my college experience. I made some life-long friends.”

Yambrovich was also one of the winners of the evening’s pajama contest.

“I was in Target with my kids and I saw these fantastic footed pajamas,” she said. “I said ‘I have to have them’. We debated if I would ever wear them, but here I am tonight … they are perfect for Pajamarino.”

Also among the former Aggies was 1959 alum Bill Hollingshead who worked his clarinet while looking dapper in a fur coat and straw fedora.

“Last year the Centennial Gazette published a photo of the 1959 Pajamarino, asking ‘could anyone name these people,” he said. “There I was in the foreground wearing this same fur coat and straw hat.”

Hollingshead was a member of the marching and concert bands throughout his four years at Davis before moving to Orange County where he headed a production company representing entertainment greats such as Frankie Avalon, Janet Dean, and The Righteous Brothers.

Hollingshead eventually moved back to Davis and reconnected with his high school sweetheart, Dianne, in 2000 at a class reunion for Woodland High school. They married in 2004.

Hollingshead said the Pajamarino has changed a lot in the fifty years since he graduated from UC Davis.

“For one thing, the Band-uh! is a lot more sober nowadays … just kidding,” he said, laughing. “Pajamarino used to be a lot smaller and more of a spontaneous gathering. It wasn’t an organized event.”

Hollingshead attributed some of the change to the growing size of the university.

“You have to understand that, when I graduated from Davis, the school had 2500 students – we all knew each other,” he said. “The band was lucky to have 35 people in it … instead of forming the word ‘Cal’ we used to form the letter ‘C’.”

Hollingshead continues to play weekly on the UC Davis campus as part of the concert band, a membership he resumed in 2005.

“One of the most charming parts for me is that I play in the Mondavi center and I look to my sides and all the other musicians are half a century younger than me,” he said. “In terms of connecting with the campus and having that life-line … there’s just nothing quite like it.”

ERICA LEE can be reached at features@theaggie.org.

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