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Come on Baby, Light My...

By Tara Laskowski

Making s'mores around a 30-foot-tall fire might sound like fun, but out-of-control blazes and dangerous building conditions are snuffing out the bonfire tradition at many universities. When a collapse in 1999 of the annual on-campus Aggie Bonfire at Texas A&M University resulted in 12 deaths and 27 injuries, the university suspended the more than 90-year-old tradition for good and erected a memorial to honor the victims. While the bonfire is still very much ablaze at many institutions, here are three of our favorite alternative "light" traditions:

Fire on the Fountain

Who needs a bonfire when you can have flamethrowers and professional fire dancers flip through burning hoops and eat fire off one another's bodies? San Jose State University's Fire on the Fountain, now in its eighth year, invokes a carnival-like atmosphere by hosting vendors, booths, games, and entertainment, all culminating in a pep rally fire show to heat up homecoming.

Lantern Walk

Arizona State University students climb "A" Mountain each year for a homecoming lantern walk that lights up the city of Tempe. First celebrated in 1917, the tradition involves fireworks, speakers, and music. In 2012, the university started broadcasting the event in the stadium so that everyone could have the best view.

Y Mountain

In 1906, after a day's worth of hard labor, a weary but stubborn group of students at Brigham Young University realized that hauling a bunch of lime and sand up a mountain to spell out "BYU" just wasn't that much fun. The plan to place all three letters on the mountain was postponed (and later abandoned), and the university was left with just the Y. The university declared that the Y stood for unity, and a tradition was born. Every homecoming, students hike "Y" Mountain to light up the letter, which is visible throughout the town of Provo, Utah. In the past, students used torches—these days, slightly less singe-worthy generator-powered light bulbs allow the hikers to flick a switch and relax.

(Back to Homecoming opening page)

About the Author Tara Laskowski

Tara Laskowski is a former senior editor for Currents.




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