In this Nov. 17, 2016, file photo, a firefighter watches the bonfire at the Lehigh After Dark Slow Burn at Goodman Campus. This year's Slow Burn was organized by Lehigh After Dark, with help from Panhellenic, Interfraternity and Student Athlete councils. (Sarah Epstein/B&W Staff)

Slow Burn Bonfire returns for a second year


Lehigh After Dark is hosting its second annual Slow Burn Bonfire on Goodman Campus Thursday night to celebrate the 153rd meeting of The Rivalry.

The event is an effort to revive a Lehigh-Lafayette tradition that existed for decades until 2009, when the night’s festivities got out of hand.

Sarah Thompson, an assistant director of residence life and member of the Lehigh After Dark committee, said the 2009 bonfire was combined with Lehigh’s fall concert that year, which featured the DJ Girl Talk. She said as the night went on, students’ behavior spiraled out of control.

“People were being really rude to the bus drivers, and the behavior was so rowdy and disrespectful that the buses stopped running its service in the middle of it,” Sarah Thompson said. “People had broken things — you name it, it was happening.”

At the time, the event was student-run, so Sarah Thompson believed the bonfire tradition could be brought back in a safer and more structured way under the guidance of staff members. Lehigh After Dark collaborated with other campus offices to put on the event last year, but this year the bonfire was solely planned and funded by Lehigh After Dark.

To help gain student support, the Lehigh After Dark committee is collaborating with the Interfraternity Council, Panhellenic Council and Student Athlete Council.

Panhel president Molly Bankuti, ’18, is working to encourage Greek organizations to make the event part of their social plans for the week.

“I feel that this whole Le-Laf week is centered around ‘We’re one school,’ and I think having so many separate parties all week to celebrate that defeats the purpose of being this one campus that’s really excited about this rivalry,” Bankuti said. “So I think having the bonfire gives people a chance to still be with their friends, and it’s still a social environment.”

She said she hopes the bonfire becomes a tradition that students start participating in without having to be encouraged to attend.

Meghan Thompson, ’18, a member of the Student Athlete Council, is working get other council members to encourage their teammates to attend the bonfire.

Meghan Thompson first heard of the tradition from her mom, who is an alum. She was glad the bonfire was brought back last year and decided to get involved with promoting the event this year to make sure the tradition lasts.

“It’s such a great event for everyone to come together around one specific goal — to beat Lafayette,” Meghan Thompson said.

Attendees at this year’s bonfire will receive a voucher for one free meal at one of the three on-site food trucks, and Lehigh Catering will provide desserts. The fire itself is expected to be larger than the last one, and lawn games such as giant Jenga and corn hole will be available for students to play.

A stage will be set with DJ Mike playing music. Sarah Thompson said the football team, Marching 97 and cheerleaders will be making an appearance to get students hyped up for Saturday’s game. She also said students can enter a raffle to win a pair of tickets to the game.

Buses will begin running on a continuous loop starting at 7:45 p.m., making stops at Williams Hall and Packer Avenue — added this year to make it easier for students living off campus to attend. The bonfire will be lit by 8:30 p.m. and the event will last until midnight.

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