UCR kicked off homecoming weekend with its annual Bonfire event which took place Friday night. Hosted by ASPB, the event allowed Highlanders to indulge in a variety of food, exhilarating attractions and special performances. Upon arrival, we were bombarded with several tents lined up between the softball field and lot 19. Attendees lined up to buy everything from mini donuts to hand dipped ice cream as well as receive a free drink from the Rockstar tent. ASPB’s tent had an extremely long line, filled with people hoping to win prizes. Even surpassing this line was that of the In N Out truck located near MSE, which promised the first 350 undergraduate students a free burger and chips.
A water station located in the parking lot made sure people stayed hydrated as they grooved to the music of student DJ JWett. A stage sat on the lawn displaying bright, blue and yellow lights with “UCR” dazzling above it. JWett bobbed his head to the music as a few onlookers danced. Attendees could be found dancing in small pockets around the venue as JWett played tracks like “Panorama” and “Post to Be” while showing off his skills with smooth transitions. Toward the end of his set, a few more people stood in front of the stage and watched as a fog machine immersed them in a gray haze.
Guests sat in groups on the grass, snacking, conversing and enjoying the cool, night air. Attendees who were brave enough waited in line to get on the Rock-O-Plane, an intense version of a Ferris wheel that spins those in its seats back and forth while rotating in a circle. Those who preferred to keep their dinner down looked up with smiles on their faces as they watched their friends swing and scream with excitement. Less intimidating attractions included the gyroscope and mechanical bull. Along with these rides was a photo booth that, without fail, created an unbelievably long line of people who wanted to snap a few pictures with friends.
Next up on the stage was student DJ Nomad Navi. “I know it’s cold out here but we’re about to bring the heat so it’s alright,” he reassured the crowd. Bathed in flashing purple and turquoise lights, Navi gave the audience a great mix of EDM. A good-sized crowd began making their way to the stage, waving glow sticks in the air and dancing to the music while Navi flowed seamlessly through different genres, going from party hit “Function” to the popular Spanish track “Gasolina.” Navi continued to interact with the crowd and even played a few of his own original tracks.
Although it was nearing the end of his set, the large crowd near the stage kept dancing until the women’s basketball coach, John Margaritis, made his way to the stage. Margaritis produced ecstatic cheers from the crowd as he exclaimed that the team was still undefeated after their win over Fresno State earlier that day. The entire team was then introduced and walked onstage with screams of encouragement from the audience before the men’s basketball coach Dennis Cutts came up to speak. Cutts explained that the men’s team was also undefeated before the crowd was introduced to the men’s team by the charismatic Taylor Johns before being treated to an incredible fireworks show that brought such intensity and fervor that rivaled the nightly spectacular at Disneyland. The show was introduced by a steady firing off of low-altitude streamers, then a grandiose display of colorful fireworks. To culminate the show, a vast multitude of fireworks were launched to end the display with a bang.
Following the fireworks show came the event that everyone had been waiting for: the burning of the opposing team’s mascot. Guests pulled out their phones to record the blazing fire as William Jessup’s warrior, which vaguely resembled a Lego, went up in flames.
As the pair of firefighters conscripted to the event began to douse the flames in huge streams of water, the headliner DJ, Dotcom, made his way to a stage as the lights dimmed and lasers shut off in ominous anticipation of his arrival. Enunciating the DJ’s arrival was the steady escalation in volume that came over the sounds of Carnage and Breaux’s festival trap remix to EPTIC’s “The End.” As the drop inched closer, the stage came back to life as the glowstick-clad event attendees waved their hands in the air amongst a sea of LED-lit styrofoam sticks.
Dotcom was a welcome boost for the crowd, who were at the same time fighting the harsh cold brought about by the changing of seasons. Curating a selection of high-energy trap, dubstep and big room house, Dotcom made his stage presence known with consistent and somewhat intrusive exclamations into the microphone — the most notable of which was a rhetorical question:
“Am I allowed to curse here? Fuck it. Let me see you all put those middle fingers up!” Dotcom declared to the crowd as he worked from the buildup to the massive drop of Cesqeaux’s remix of “The Dopest.”
The moments following Dotcom’s set brought an unplanned addendum to the night’s program of events, as Army uniform-clad Harrison Hudson entered the stage, bringing with him a plus one, whom he introduced as Sydney Dodson, “the love of [his] life.” As a perplexed Dodson continued to look around in shrewd confusion, Hudson continued “I decided to do this in front of her entire school.” It was at that moment that Hudson went down to one knee and proposed to Dodson, backed by an entourage of cheers and exclamations that overtook the hundreds of Highlander onlookers.
Originally planning the proposal for the next day, Hudson relished the fact that “the opportunity was too good … all of her sorority sisters [and] friends were there” and described the moment as “the most nervous I’ve ever been.”
Completely surprised by the proposal, Dodson echoed Hudson’s sentiments of nervousness, but was quick to dismiss the anxiety and seize the moment. “I wasn’t expecting it at all … I was so scared. I never thought it’d be in front of so many people, [but] I was really excited. It was great to see so many students supporting the surprise … taking their time to make it that much better.”
As the embers of the warrior effigy faded to an unsightly pile of ash and the crowds dispersed in all directions away from the event, one can only reflect favorably upon the success of ASPB’s homecoming Bonfire, which never once failed in its mission to ring in the dawn of a new beginning for UCR with a bang.