Pioneer Days was a tradition celebrated in Chico for decades. It was the celebration during the week leading up to a community parade (now the Pioneer Day Parade). What was a fun week of celebrations got out of hand in 1987 when Chico State was rated as Playboy's #1 party school and many took the opportunity to party in excess. What has been described by many locals as a riot ensued, and that brought an end to a longstanding tradition in town. Robin Wilson, president of Chico State at the time, famously announced that he took Pioneer Days "out back and shot it in the head." In 2003, the Pioneer Day Parade came back, much to the surprise of locals, who remembered Wilson's announcement and believed they would never again see the name in use.

This has been one event that brought Chico into the forefront of pop-culture, and many still remember it more than twenty years later both within and outside the area. As stated in urban legends from Chico, an episode of the Fox show "King of the Hill" has the character Connie taunting her parents by telling them that she wants to attend Chico State. As an overachieving student, this was presumably because of its notorious reputation as a party school.