By Helena Hunt, Staff Writer
The football season can’t begin until the last fireworks of the Traditions Rally fade over Baylor’s campus. Today’s celebration, taking place the day before this season’s first home game against Lamar, will welcome Brad Paisley to Fountain Mall for an evening of tailgating, cheerleading and fireworks.
Although the Traditions Rally began as an Interfraternity Council tailgate, it has expanded to include performances by outside artists as well as Baylor’s band and cheerleaders. Paisley’s addition to this year’s line-up has excited additional interest in the event, said Matt Burchett, director of Student Activities.
This year’s Traditions Rally has been moved from its customary location at McLane Stadium to Fountain Mall. Paisley’s management team, who chose Baylor as one of the nine stops on his Country Nation College Tour, were looking for a venue that reflects the tailgating atmosphere of college football. Fountain Mall was the most logical option when the Student Activities team was looking for this kind of uniquely collegiate venue for the event.
“It’s a quintessential Baylor location,” Burchett said. “When you think of Homecoming, when you think of Christmas on Fifth Street, some of these events that have marked our community for decades, Fifth Street and Fountain Mall are at the epicenter of those experiences. So it’s familiar, and I think it’s certainly nostalgic for our community to have events on Fountain Mall.”
Burchett said one of the greatest challenges of holding the Rally at Fountain Mall is its limited size. To cope with this challenge, Fountain Mall will be transformed for the event. A grandstand set up on Third Street in front of Moody Memorial Library will accommodate 3,200 people.
The concert stage will be set up near Fifth Street on Fountain Mall. The audience can also sit or stand on the grass to watch the performances. The construction on Fifth Street will be pushed back to allow even more room for the stage and the audience.
“We’ll get a lot of people in Fountain Mall in a safe and welcoming environment,” Burchett said.
In order to secure entry to the event, students are asked to arrive at the Baylor Park behind South Russell at 4 p.m. for a students-only tailgate hosted by the IFC. Fountain Mall will be opened to all guests arriving from the Baylor and Waco communities at 5:30 p.m..
At 7 p.m. the celebrations will begin with a pep rally featuring the Golden Wave band, the cheerleading squad, and an appearance by the football team. This will be followed by the Bobby Bones concert at 7:30 p.m. and the Brad Paisley concert at 8:30 p.m.
At the end of the Traditions Rally students and fans alike will send off the team with a celebratory fireworks display, the largest in the history of the event. Waco senior Josiah Beck says that the fireworks are his favorite feature of the Traditions Rally.
“I enjoyed the fireworks a lot last year,” Beck said. “I think I’m most excited for the fireworks show. I think it’s a good way to unify behind the school in a positive way.”