Students gather around flames as football team looks to catch fire for rest of season
Students filled the field where the homecoming bonfire would be held this year, clustering in front of the wooden stage on which football players would soon gather.
Student Activities hosted the event Friday, Oct. 5.
“It’s a great time for people who have different interests to come together and be excited for one thing — cheering on Liberty,” Stephanie Ward, the promotions manager for Student Activities, said.
The bonfire offered a chance for the students to meet Liberty’s football team, the cheerleaders, Head Coach Gill and Sparky, Liberty University’s mascot. Before the lighting of the bonfire, the drumline beat their instruments, feeding off the students’ excitement as the cheerleaders performed stunts in front of the stage.
“We’ve been preparing since early August, so we enjoyed getting the chance to play. The reaction was great,” Ryan Jones, the drumline captain, said.
The students cheered while watching the drumline weaved across the stage, each drum beating in time with their intricate movements.
“The drumline really got you going and excited for homecoming,” Liberty freshman Michaela Whittaker said.
The cheerleaders performed their routine to the light of nearby fires as the drumline finished playing. The cheerleaders’ smiles and exaggerated motions brought enthusiasm to the crowd of students.
“I loved seeing how much the crowd gets into the celebration and how excited the football players are,” Liberty cheerleader Bryan Munoz said.
Shortly after the start of the bonfire celebration, the football players jumped on stage, followed by Gill, who gave a quick speech to the students. Gill motivated the team as the football players cheered and shouted, pumping their fists and exchanging smiles with the audience of eager onlookers. After Gill spoke, he performed the lighting of the bonfire. A huge stack of wooden pallets sat in the middle of an area roped off to students, waiting to be ignited. The wood quickly caught on fire, placing an orange glow on hundreds of students’ faces. The fire towered higher and swayed with the wind as cameras flashed to capture the scene.
“The bonfire was a little scary when the wind was blowing,” Liberty sophomore Brittyn Carr said.
As the bonfire dimmed and turned to glowing ashes, students’ thoughts turned to the game that would take place the next day.
“We have a mission where we want the students to come out and just fellowship with each other,” Cort Comfort, an event supervisor for Student Activities, said.
Free s’mores were offered to the students along with hot chocolate in an attempt to draw them to help support Liberty during homecoming. Sparky joined the students in roasting marshmallows as some individuals posed for pictures with the mascot.
“There’s no real agenda,” Comfort said. “We’re not trying to teach you anything. We just want the students to come out to meet the players, the coach, and have a great time.”