Bonfire enthusiasm continues

by Julia Levy | 10/27/00 5:00am

The Class of 2004 "is so psyched up," said Allison Giordano '04, who jetted around the construction site yesterday afternoon, sporting dyed green hair and a Class of 2004 Bonfire t-shirt.

Giordano was not the only enthusiastic builder on the Green -- despite rumblings of impending change stemming from the bonfire committee's warnings that this year's blaze could be the last if students neglect responsibility, the building crowd yesterday seemed excited and focused on the task at hand.

"I think it looks great," College President James Wright, who went out to observe the construction at around 1:30 p.m., said. "There are as many or more students as there have been in past years."

Class President Frederica Ghesquiere said the 2004s were working together well, calling the crowd "very upbeat and energetic."

She said she did not anticipate any Friday night disruptions that could lead to the end of the bonfire as we know it.

"I think most people understand and they respect the need for an increase in safety awareness this year," she said.

Class Treasurer Ryan Bennett '04 noted that the construction felt "less hands-on" with the crane, which was new to the construction this year, helping students lift planks of wood to the top of the growing structure.

Ghesquiere said "it's still our bonfire and we've constructed it. But it's not 100 percent our manual labor."

"It's still fun as hell," Julian Saltman '04 chipped in.

Most people on the Green yesterday -- from Wright to student leaders to Facilities Operations and Management staff members -- said the bonfire is an important tradition at Dartmouth and they did not want to see it go.

"I've been here for 31 years of bonfires and I want to continue the tradition," Wright said. "It's critical that we treat it as something that's very important at Dartmouth."

Wright said he would be on the Green tonight for the bonfire festivities, saying he "wouldn't miss it."

According to Ken McClintock, who works in the athletic department and was overseeing the bonfire's construction yesterday, the cranes are keeping this year's project safer than in the past.

Especially in the aftermath of the disaster last year at Texas A&M when 12 students died while constructing their bonfire, Dartmouth's bonfire committee is trying to make sure that a few "bad apples" don't hurt themselves or others, committee chair Joe Cassidy said.

Last year saw an across-the-board increase of alcohol violations, arrests, vandalism and sexual assault over Homecoming weekend -- with many of the violations coming on the night of the bonfire. Many of the figures were twice the numbers from the previous year's Homecoming.

To avoid more problems this year, student leaders sent out a letter to students warning that they take responsibility for their actions lest there be future repercussions. Undergraduate advisers and 2004 dorm representatives have also cautioned students to be careful.

"We've discussed that a lot of dorm reps are supposed to make it very clear that there will be no flipping over of cars," Rob Bialas '04 said. "We realize that it's just for safety so we can preserve the tradition."

Cassidy said the only structural differences to the bonfire will be four by eight foot plywood sheets on each side of the fire that start three feet up and extend 12 feet up the bonfire structure.

He called the bonfire a "natural ladder" and recounted that in the past some students have tried to climb the lighted structure. The sheets of plywood, he said, will "take away the rungs of the ladder."

According to Cassidy, this year will also burning construction lights to the Green tonight as well as a marked off area that students should not enter while the fire is burning.