Cameron Yong & Jeffrey Chang/HIGHLANDER
Cameron Yong & Jeffrey Chang/HIGHLANDER

The time hundreds have been waiting for is finally here: basketball season. UCR held its annual homecoming bonfire Nov 14. UCR doesn’t mess with Homecoming, and much like previous years, Bonfire did not disappoint. From 6 p.m. to late into the evening, the celebration to prepare for Saturday’s game against UCSD raged on. Free food, bungee jumping, a mechanical bull, fire and lightning dancers and DJs spinning music all evening long highlighted a night of festivities.

What seemed to be yet another normal Friday turned out to be a phenomenal night. Students gathered in Lot 19 hours before the event actually began, as the first 300 students received free Carl’s Jr. A handful of others were in line for the mechanical bull ride, while a couple of others were simply wandering around. It all felt mellow — but by 6 p.m., food in hand and music bumping, it just got real.

DeeJay Simplexx and DJ Suma provided electronic music that amped up attendees as they explored the bonfire grounds. There were so many activities to check out during the event and I got a chance to try out each one. The mechanical bull and bungee jumps were definitely the highlight of the night.

As soon as the announcement of the Tesla Lightning Coil show came on, many rushed to see the show. People were in awe at how the man flipped, turned and put fire into his mouth. The fire dancers played with rods of fire, swallowed the flames and spit them back out in an amazing show of skill. In between, lightning dancers controlled streams of electricity that coursed from a tower to their suits. Many in the crowd were amazed at the level of skill and precision these performers had and each subsequent performance drew in larger crowds.

If attention wasn’t ignited by the shows, others grabbed the fun by the horns — literally. Either straddling a mechanical bull or catching air in the human slingshot, adrenaline junkies had no mercy. For those who are not such risk-taking creatures, there was a photo booth and a dance floor. Also, to further enjoy the night there were food vendors selling Carl’s Jr., hand-dipped ice cream and frozen bananas (which are quite delicious), and mini-doughnuts.

As the night continued, students anticipated the main event: the torching of the Triton. The UCR spirit squad and band almost outshined the neon lights as Scotty and cheerleaders led a small pep rally and introduced head basketball coach Dennis Cutts and Chancellor Kim Wilcox to the stage. The blue and gold pom-poms and bright smiles could not cover the chant: “Burn the Triton!” The roar lit the spectacular fireworks. As the last spark flew into the air, the fire crew began to set the pyre on fire. Screams and cheers erupted from the crowd as the UCSD mascot burst into flames and a huge bonfire was created from its incinerated remains.

The fire died down, but the heat continued. Kennedy Jones took to the stage to perform his set. Continuing on the theme of electronic music, he performed for a large crowd of excited students who immediately filled the tent. In a haze of smoke, lasers and driving beats, UCR soon turned into the University Club of Riverside. Near the front of the stage, friends began hoisting each other onto their backs — some even got thrown up into the air and almost crowd-surfed.

A wild night filled with music, games and food definitely lifted everyone’s spirits after a long week of midterms and studying. ASPB was successful in providing an amusing time for students and an awesome welcoming for the basketball team. With all the spirit activities, there is no doubt the student body is pumped and ready for the season. It truly was a memorable college experience to attend UCR Homecoming Bonfire.