Bonfire ignites community through campus tradition

Four torchbearers, one from each class will begin the burning of the bonfire, which will be lit and set aflame. The bonfire was started Thursday night, as freshman walked over from freshman Mass Meeting, and constructed the heap of wooden pallets for the festivities. Lariat File Photo

By Tyler Bui | Staff Writer

The annual homecoming bonfire will be set ablaze at 9:45 p.m. tonight on Fountain Mall as just one of the many homecoming traditions taking place this weekend.

It has been a part of Baylor’s homecoming celebration since it began in 1909, encompassing the tradition of homecoming, the eternal flame and honoring the story of the Immortal Ten since 1947.

The bonfire experience began Thursday night during Mass Meeting, where the freshman class was told the story of the Immortal Ten, honoring the 10 members of the men’s basketball team who were killed while traveling to an away game in 1927. At the end of Mass Meeting, the eternal flame, a representation of the Immortal Ten, was passed down to the freshman class to guard.

The freshmen then walked together from the Ferrell Center to Fountain Mall, where they built and prepared the bonfire, guided by the Baylor Chamber of Commerce.

Tonight, the bonfire will be lit by four torchbearers, representing each class, and will burn throughout the night in front of Baylor alumni and students.

Southlake senior CJ Foster, homecoming chair and member of the Baylor Chamber of Commerce, said the Immortal Ten represents the Baylor spirit.

“The story of the Immortal Ten is just really unbelievable. The Immortal Ten really show us the true spirit of Baylor, and we really think that’s replicated in the bonfire because you’ve got this unbelievable force that’s standing in front of you,” Foster said. “It really produces a great legacy for Baylor to follow.”

He said the bonfire has a rich history and is a great way to bring the Baylor family together each year.

“The bonfire has been around for a really long time—it has taken a lot of different forms over the years, but currently we’ve got a really good system going,” Foster said. “The freshmen will build it Thursday night, which is really cool. It has been really a great tradition for us; it has always been a great way to welcome the Baylor family back home and we’re really excited to have it again.”

Foster said the bonfire serves as an event to unite the Baylor community through a shared university tradition.

“Honestly, [it’s] just a way to unite the Baylor family as a whole. It’s something you don’t see every day; it’s an amazing opportunity we are given as students to welcome home the Baylor family,” Foster said. “The alumni are always trying to take care of the current students, but this is our chance to really welcome them back home. It gives them a chance to come back to Fountain Mall, come back to the university that they used to call home and just kind of relax—forget about all of life’s troubles and just be in awe of what’s in front of them.”

Athens senior Zachary Loflin, member of the Baylor Chamber of Commerce and chairman of the Baylor Line, said the bonfire, along with the other homecoming traditions, keeps the Baylor family together.

“I think traditions are what hold our culture together. Baylor has been here since 1845, and homecoming was started in 1909 by faculty who wanted to bring alumni back to Baylor,” Loflin said. “The bonfire, the parade— they all make Baylor unique. That’s what not only bonds us to each other, but to the alumni who came before us. Generations of Baylor people— we’re all bonded. Aside from the experience that we all went to Baylor, we’re bonded by the fact that we’ve experienced the same traditions. They resonate with everyone differently, but we all get to experience them.”

Loflin said the bonfire is an unforgettable experience and he encourages every freshman to attend.

“I think seeing the bonfire that you as your freshman class built is one of those pillar experiences where you really can make your memories at Baylor,” Loflin said. “I think it’s one of the things that every freshman should get to experience. Speaking for myself personally, it’s an experience that I will never forget, and I would encourage every freshman to do the same and go and experience it. It’s also [about] taking in how long this tradition has been around and how many other hundreds of thousands of people have experienced the same feeling, that same tradition throughout the years, and I think it really just ties us together.”