Student and alumni organizations around campus are preparing for a Homecoming weekend that will celebrate rejuvenation, growth and community — the first such occasion with limited COVID-19 protocols since the onset of the pandemic.
According to bonfire build chair Isaac Mullen ’26, the weekend will include a series of College traditions, starting with the Homecoming bonfire on the Green on Oct. 28. The bonfire is built each year by members of the first-year class, according to the Collis Center for Student Involvement’s website.
Mullen said that build days this year will take place from Oct. 26-28, with construction set to finish the afternoon before the bonfire ceremony will take place. Mullen added that many members of the Class of 2026 seem interested in getting involved with the bonfire.
“When I’ve mentioned something that I’m doing [for the bonfire], several of my friends are always like, ‘Oh, what is that? How can I learn more?’” Mullen said. “The Class of ’26 just seems to be really enthusiastic.”
Bonfire spirit chair Claire O’Flynn ’26 said that on top of the construction of the bonfire, the bonfire committee is planning additional attractions to “get people excited” for the main event. O’Flynn added that the committee’s current plans include a trivia night, s’mores, merchandise sales, item giveaways, a themed playlist and a “hype” video featuring members of the Class of 2026 and.
O’Flynn, who said her uncle and older sister are both alumni, said that she came to campus to see the bonfire as a child, but she did not fully understand the importance of the tradition once she herself became a student.
“I want to be directly involved in the traditions,” O’Flynn said. “You meet a lot of alumni that are super excited about [the bonfire], and I kind of wanted to figure out what the hype was, but I also want to create the hype and make sure it’s what alumni know it as.”
Vice president for alumni relations Cheryl Bascomb ’82 said that it is important to acknowledge the context behind Dartmouth traditions as well as the traditions themselves.
“[The bonfire] represents gathering on the Green in a way that we have for years and coming together,” Bascomb said. “The important part isn’t the fire… It’s really understanding what develops that sense of community and continuing that sense of community. That’s the real tradition.”
Bascomb added that she became involved in alumni relations work because she felt “connected” to the College and wanted to foster Dartmouth’s tradition of community regardless of geographic location. She said that on top of welcoming alumni back to campus, the College will be providing virtual Homecoming programming — such as a virtual tour of the Orozco murals — for those who may not be able to physically return to campus.
For students and alumni who will be on campus, Baker-Berry Library access services student supervisor Loey Crooks said that tours of Baker Tower will be offered during Homecoming weekend this year. According to Crooks, the tours are typically offered during Winter Carnival weekend, Family Weekend, commencement day and during the now-defunct Summer Family Weekend.
“We find that on weekends that attract either alums or families or a mix of both, they’re always looking for that unique experience,” Crooks said. “And being able to take groups up to the tower feels like a uniquely Dartmouth experience that we can offer.”
Bascomb added that Homecoming has “athletic overtones,” with rugby, volleyball and football games scheduled for that weekend. The Big Green will host Harvard at Memorial Field on Saturday, Oct. 29.
“It’s a big game,” offensive lineman Nick Schwitzgebel ’24 said. “Harvard is a great team, so the biggest part of it is just that we’ve gotta be on top of our stuff.”
Schwitzgebel said that he anticipates a “crazy” atmosphere with “full stands” for the game, which is an in-conference game against a traditional rival.
Schwitzgebel added that the football team runs a program called Friends of Dartmouth Football, through which alumni and family members can connect with current football players after games.
“I can talk with [my parents], other peoples’ parents, meet other alumni,” Schwitzgebel said. “Everyone loves coming back.”
Dartmouth traditions are “dynamic” and evolve over time, Bascomb said — adding that many alumni return to campus not for any specific tradition or game, but rather for the sake of coming back to Dartmouth and its community.
“The fundamentals are coming together — being together and really being able to appreciate it after a few years of a pandemic where we couldn’t do that,” Bascomb said. “I think it’s more precious than ever now for people who are coming back and realizing that this is not to be taken for granted.”