Homecoming bonfire to return to East Bank

by Naomi Scott

With approximately 30 students in attendance at the 2003 homecoming pepfest, the annual tradition was no bigger than many regular classes.

But this year, organizers said they are trying to put more pep into the pepfest, bringing the annual towering bonfire back to Minneapolis and adding a local rock band. Hopefully, it will encourage more students to participate, they said.

“Last year, we had the lowest attendance ever,” homecoming co-coordinator Jessica Mann said. “We blame the cold weather and the location.”

Held on the St. Paul Gym Field since 1996, the event has been moved back to the East Bank campus and will light up Oct. 22 in Riverflats Park.

The addition of a live band is a first for the event, which will take place immediately following the pep fest. Panoramic Blue is scheduled to perform.

For years, the pepfest and bonfire were held at a field near Sanford Hall. Past officials said they moved the event to the St. Paul campus to spread homecoming activities across all campuses.

After considering four possible sites in Minneapolis, Twin Cities Student Unions members approved the measure in June.

Homecoming co-coordinator Abby Johnston said pepfests are important traditions at many college campuses but not at the University.

“At other universities, pepfests are a huge part of homecoming,” Johnston said. “Most people here don’t even know we have one.”

Mann said as many as 500 students, alumni and parents might attend.

Residence hall students and greek community members will help pick up and haul more than 300 wood pallets, she said.

Student Activities adviser Jay Arcuri said the pallets were ordered from University Stores, a wholesale warehouse that sells products from many different companies to the University.

Johnston said, “We hope to bring together students from all different areas and get them excited about something their university is putting on.”

Journalism senior Meredith Lee said she’s never participated in homecoming events, especially when they were in St. Paul.

“It was too far away, and I wanted it to be somewhere close where I could walk to,” she said.

But she said she is interested in going to the bonfire now that it’s moving.

Andrew Hoelscher, a computer science junior, said he’s never heard of the bonfire tradition, “probably because it was in St. Paul.

“But I might go now because it’s closer,” Hoelscher said.

Some students who live on the St. Paul campus said they’re disappointed by the news.

“It might generate more people now, but it’s sad because our students again have to travel over there,” said Cassie Sather, a kinesiology senior and community adviser at Bailey Hall.

“We want to be a part of the homecoming festivities too,” she said.

Spanish senior Sarah Dornfeld said she was not surprised that the bonfire was moving back to the East Bank.

The homecoming organizers’ decision to move the event made sense, Dornfeld said, but shows once again that most University events don’t happen in St. Paul.

“We’re alone in about everything over here,” she said.

Homecoming organizers said they think the event can amplify school spirit while getting more students excited about the annual week-long event.

“The purpose of the event is to get students rallied for the upcoming homecoming game,” Mann said. “It’s a chance for students to unite as one and show their pride and spirit for the ‘U.’ “