Ryan Poon /The Highlander

On Friday, Nov. 20, from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m., the Associated Students Program Board (ASPB) hosted the annual UCR Homecoming Bonfire. The virtual event was a night filled with lively performances, giveaways and more. 

The event traditionally takes place on campus and celebrates the kick-off of the UCR basketball season and is celebrated with the burning of the opposing team’s mascot in a massive bonfire. The event would feature food and treats, live performances, carnival games, carnival rides and fireworks. While the event looked a bit different this year, ASPB did a great job trying to keep students engaged and school spirit alive through this virtual event. 

This year, students could livestream Bonfire via Vimeo, a video hosting, sharing and services platform. The event kicked off promptly at 7 p.m. with radio host EJ in LA from 102.7 KIIS F.M. ASPB’s decision to go with a professional radio host was a smart move on their part, as EJ in LA had an engaging presence, which is difficult to achieve when you’re speaking to an anonymous mass of students. Hiring a radio host for the event also made it feel more professional. 

After welcoming UCR undergraduates, EJ in LA presented the first performer of the night, JSTJR, a DJ and producer. According to Insomniac Music, JSTJR employs a unique hybrid of hip-hop and experimental electronic production. He’s also worked with Diplo as a credited artist on Major Lazer’s “Peace Is The Mission” in 2015. His set was filled with lively music; however, he struggled to keep his set personal and engaging, failing to address the UCR students watching his performance more than once or twice. However, managing to keep his set lively at all was an impressive feat for a virtual event, which can often get awkward. 

JSTJR’s set ended at approximately 7:30 p.m., and EJ in LA then instructed UCR students to email ASPB.Specials@gmail.com for a chance to win a Bonfire sweater. After students had a chance to enter the giveaway, EJ in LA introduced the next performer and midliner, OOKAY, an electronic dance music producer and DJ. His set, which also lasted approximately 30 minutes, was lively and engaging. OOKAY addressed the UCR community multiple times, encouraging students to jump and dance along at home. 

Once his set concluded and he thanked and bid UCR goodbye, EJ in LA led students in another giveaway courtesy of ASPB. This time, students had a chance to win a DJ mixer if they entered the giveaway. 

Before the last performer of the night, Director of Intercollegiate Athletics Tamica Smith Jones discussed the Budget Advisory Committee’s recommendation to cut the UCR Athletics department to address budget cuts as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic and campus closure. Jones thanked the support from UCR students, the UCR community and beyond, presenting a #KeepUCRAthletics video, showcasing the support the UCR Athletics program has received. Smith also announced that the first UCR Men’s Basketball game will take place on Nov. 25 at 2 p.m. While the event is fanless, students can watch the livestream of the game at gohighlanders.com. 

EJ in LA then led Highlanders in the last giveaway of the night. Students had the opportunity to win the biggest prize of the night: a brand new MacBook. After students got the opportunity to enter to win the MacBook, Bonfire was ready for the final performance of the night. 

Valentino Khan, the headliner of Bonfire, is an American DJ and producer born and raised in Los Angeles. Khan is best known for releasing material through prominent DJ’s such as Diplo, Skrillex and Steve Aoki. His set was animated and energetic and Khan maintained a vibrant energy throughout his set. He appeared enthusiastic and high-spirited, a nice feat considering how hard it is to stay captivating via a virtual event. 

After the conclusion of his set, Khan participated in a Q&A session led by EJ in LA, who asked questions submitted by UCR students. Oftentimes, at virtual events, specifically those that take place via Zoom, ASPB has allowed students to directly ask questions to performers, lecturers or guest speakers, which often proved to be chaotic and difficult to manage. By handpicking student questions beforehand and allowing a professional radio host to ask the questions and lead the conversation, ASPB mastered a well choreographed Q&A session. 

One of the questions that EJ in LA asked on behalf of UCR students was how Khan would describe himself in one word. Khan stated that he would describe himself as “versatile … I like to keep things fresh.” When asked when he first began making music, he stated that he started at age 13 or 14, he first started in rap and then moved into dance music. His advice for those interested in DJing is to “learn how to produce. Set yourself apart from other acts by learning to do that. Build your own fan base. Be vigilant and work hard.”By participating in the Q&A session, Khan added a more personal touch to Bonfire, something that would have likely not occurred if the event were held in-person. 

The event concluded at approximately 9 p.m. with a reminder from EJ in LA for Highlanders to stay safe and wear a mask. 2020 Homecoming Bonfire has proved again that despite the circumstances, ASPB will continue to find ways to make virtual events engaging and fun for Highlanders. ASPB’s next event, Around the Block with Bretman Rock, takes place on Nov. 24 at 7 p.m. UCR undergraduates can RSVP to the event at highlanderlink.ucr.edu.