By Lauren Friederman, Reporter
Thousands of students, alumni and Waco community members crowded Fountain Mall dressed in green and gold to show their Baylor pride for Traditions Rally on Friday night.
In years past, the annual Traditions Rally has been held in Baylor’s football stadium, hosting musicians like Phillip Phillips and Ben Rector. This year, Matt Burchett, director of student activities said Baylor added a new twist to it’s pre-football ritual by hosting country artist Brad Paisley on Fountain Mall.
“This is new ground for us,” Burchett said. “We’ve never hosted an event of this caliber artist over 10 years.”
The rally began with a student tailgate as the crowd funneled into the event. The appearance of Bruiser, President and Chancellor Kenn Starr, the Golden Wave band, a hype video and a hoard of cheerleaders got the crowd pumped up before musical opener Bobby Bones came on stage.
“We’re building a community at Baylor and in Waco where the university is a true partner and a place that brings great music, great art and great entertainment to the city to make everyone welcome to come to our campus,” Burchett said.
The crowd stretched from the stage to halfway across fountain mall with a few spectators filling in the bleachers.
“Our security team and concert team has said about 6,000 to 7,000 showed up,” Burchett said. “We had prepared for 10,000, but that’s a great showing. We want to be a place that’s welcoming for as many people as possible.”
Local Waco vendors, Dave’s Burger Barn, Xtristo’s, Vitek’s, Límon, Pokey-O’s, the Mix Cafe and Kona Ice served patrons on Fountain Mall from their trucks.
“All the vendors said they did great business all night which is another outreach for us,” Burchett said.
While the heat can become an issue at outdoor events, Burchett said his team was prepared.
“The heat issues were very moderate, certainly not anything in comparison to what you’d experience on a typical game day,” Burchett said.
Precautions were taken to ensure that students didn’t become overheated or dehydrated. Free water was available for students upon entry into fountain mall.
The cheerleaders and Bruiser took the stage once again with strains of the Baylor Fight song playing in the background.
When Brad Paisley took the stage, the crowd’s energy totally changed.
“I never thought someone as big as Brad Paisley would be at Baylor,” Austin junior Amy Cassidy said.
Paisley emerged as the lights came on and the crowd sang along to his performance of “Crushin’ It.”
“It doesn’t get more Texas than the Brazos and a bunch of copper steer by the river,” Paisley said.
While some of Paisley’s songs don’t follow the mission of the university, the importance of diversity at Baylor is also taken into consideration when scheduling acts to perform, Burchett said.
“We enjoy the Chris Tomlins and David Crowders of the world to come to our campus and sing worship,” Burchett said. “But we also have to bring the LaCraes next month or a Brad Paisley or whoever that may be, not only to ensure diversity, but also that’s what our students enjoy.”
Burchett and his staff are already looking toward next year’s rally which they will begin planning after homecoming.
“For an event like this, I think to an extent you keep the formula the same, but you certainly have to add twists and turns to keep it fresh,” Burchett said.