They came for the food — especially the crisp, juicy watermelon and cool ice cream. They stayed for the friendly, furry dogs.

After a two-year hiatus, UCLA Staff Assembly and the Chancellor’s office pulled out all the stops at the 17th annual All-Staff Picnic to show gratitude for the people who keep campus running every day, especially during the pandemic. 

Chancellor Gene Block took to microphone, opening with words “borrowed” from Martin Jarmond, Alice and Nahum Lainer Family Director of Athletics.

“When he talks about the team, he doesn’t just mean the players on the field … He means everybody who makes it possible for athletic success, and it’s the same here for academic success,” said Block, who spent a portion of the event working the food distribution station with vice chancellors and deans.

“You are the team, and therefore I want to thank you deeply for all that you do,” Block said.

Several thousand staff enjoyed temperatures in the mid-70s and thus were in no hurry to leave Dickson Plaza staying for the bulk of the two-hour event, during which they could enjoy locally sourced food, games, dancing and therapy dogs courtesy of UCLA Health.

Other highlights included live music from student group Mariachi de Uclatlán, a chance to ring the Victory Bell, a raffle drawing and free swag.

“Nice to see you all in person after a two-year pause,” said Ana Esquivel, president of Staff Assembly, who asked picnic attendees to join her in a 10-second moment of silence to honor loved ones and colleagues who were negatively affected by or lost their lives due to the pandemic.

Block marveled at the picnic’s size, which called for 300 gallons of lemonade and 2,500 pounds of watermelon freshly cut and served from large ice pedestals where it stayed cold for staff members to enjoy throughout the early afternoon.

UCLA women’s basketball coach Cori Close also made a guest appearance to pump up the crowd, launching rolled UCLA shirts onto the dance floor and leading everyone in an eight-clap before kicking it over to UCLA Recreation members for a dance lesson. 

It wouldn’t be a staff picnic without dancing. This year it was the Cupid Shuffle.