By VALARIE GIBSON
After fall break on Wednesday evening, students crowded Campus Walk, all heading towards Jefferson Square to enjoy the warmth of the fire and the benefits of free food. The fire burned bright in the middle of the grass.
The incendiary was the Association of Residence Halls’ ringing in of Homecoming Week 2016. Faces glowed around the fire and students were pleased to be chatting with their friends. The smell was that of a typical bonfire, burning wood and smoke blowing into faces.
The fire was lit at 7 p.m. on Wednesday night, Oct. 19, in the center of Jefferson Square. Along with the fire, they had other things students could occupy their time with.
Students gathered in line to get funnel cakes for a snack. UMW’s campus radio station, WMWC, was on hand to serve as the event’s DJ. as students were bobbing their heads along to the beat of both old and new tunes, forgetting all the homework they had abandoned and enjoying the traditional homecoming event.
The Association for Residence Halls holds this event annually. This year they served funnel cakes, hot chocolate and apple cider as refreshments, which many students enjoyed.
Homecoming Week has been a tradition at Mary Wash since 1972. Much of the alumni gather in Fredericksburg to see how their school has changed since they have graduated and reunite with their college friends. Many schools center their Homecoming events around a big football game, but since Mary Washington doesn’t have a football team, it is done slightly differently.
The bonfire serves as a kickoff to the rest of the Homecoming festivities, which are highlighted by Thursday night’s LipSync competition hosted by Class Council and Saturday’s tailgate at the Battlground which took place during games by field hockey, volleyball, men’s and women’s rugby and men’s and women’s soccer.
Senior English major, Katie Koth said the bonfire was “a great one compared to years past because both Dean Rucker and President Paino showed up to show their school spirit along with the students.”
Association of Residence Hall President, Katey Matragrano oversaw planning the bonfire. “Planning the event takes several months because we [ARH] have to plan out food and beverages, performers and approving the event through SAE,” Matragrano said.
This event re-occurs year after year, so the ARH has the logistics of planning and set up down to a science.
“The turnout was about average in comparison to other years,” Matragrano said. “This year we [ARH] had about 550 people in total attend.”
Sophomore, Katherine Bartles, said that her favorite thing about the bonfire was that there was free hot chocolate.
Even on a rather warm October night, the hot chocolate and cider was a big hit among attendees. “I really enjoyed the atmosphere of the bonfire and the free food along with it,” said sophomore Libby Patterson. “The only thing missing from the bonfire was marshmallows, chocolate and graham crackers to make s’mores.”
Koth said her last bonfire was “bittersweet because it’s a Mary Wash tradition that I will no longer be able to participate in as a student.”
Despite not getting the turnout of the tailgate or LipSync, the bonfire is continually one of UMW students’ favorite events and brings a unique feel to it every year.