Bonfire sparks Homecoming spirit

Tom Lopez

A traditional Homecoming bonfire lit up the night sky and the St. Paul campus as more than 2,200 students met in a field to hear the marching band and to crown the Homecoming king and queen Friday night.
Seniors Jim Hilt and Darcy Gerard received the title of royalty after a week of milking cows and promoting school spirit.
“I am very proud to have been crowned,” said Hilt, a political science major and member of the Sigma Chi fraternity. “There were so many good candidates. Every man up there would have represented the school well. I couldn’t be more proud of any of them.”
Gerard, a 32-year-old student in the school of nursing, said she was honored by the opportunity to represent the University. A single mother with an 11-year-old son, she said she hopes to use the position to emphasize the importance of education and participation in the University. “I truly love this school,” she said.
The queen and king were chosen before the bonfire by a panel of nine judges, consisting of University administrators and last year’s royalty. Both Hilt and Gerard said they had not expected to win.
Jake Lamb, last year’s king, said the Royalty Committee did a very good job of organizing the event this year. He added that all of this year’s candidates deserved their honors.
This year’s Homecoming marked the first time the bonfire has been held in St. Paul since 1968. The fire and crowning usually take place behind Sanford Hall. Construction forced a location change, and the St. Paul campus volunteered.
Despite the move, St. Paul Student Center coordinator Wanda Kanwischer said that the crowd at this year’s bonfire was much larger than in recent years. She attributes this, among other things, to the St. Paul location. “It makes the event more campus-wide,” she said. “It reaches out to a more diverse crowd.”
Along with the students, alumni, royalty and bands, two St. Paul fire engines were also present at the bonfire. Judson Freed, the deputy director of Emergency Management in St. Paul, said that although safety workers encourage and enjoy the bonfire tradition, they tend to err on the side of caution. He said that on Friday morning he was afraid the event would have to be cancelled.
“We would have cancelled if the wind had kept up,” he said.
“I’m glad we didn’t have to,” Freed added. “It’s a great bonfire.”