Worth Knowing: Looks like there will be a bonfire at Dartmouth Homecoming on October 26 after all . .
When the Town of Hanover told Dartmouth College in May that it would not issue an outdoor activities permit to allow the College's annual Homecoming Bonfire unless the College made significant safety improvements, there was much wailing and tearing of shirts as the College community pondered the prospect of losing a beloved tradition. (The first bonfire was lit in 1888 according to The Observer.) The Town told the College it was afraid the structure could collapse into the crowd and was concerned by what it perceived was frequent drunken and dangerous behavior by students. (It has long been a Dartmouth tradition for freshmen to run the number laps around the bonfire that add up to their graduation year - plus 100 more laps).
Photo thanks to Dartmouth College
In response, the College pulled together a working group and that group came up with proposed changes to make the whole event safer. The bonfire structure itself would be more compact and shorter. And the student running tradition would be extremely curtailed. The Town was satisfied by these changes and has supposedly issued the permit. Town Manager Julia Griffin said she felt the College had been very responsive to the Town's concerns.
The most obvious change to the festivities will be that to the students' lap-running tradition. This year, students will be permitted to run one lap around the bonfire and then are invited to retire to Dartmouth Hall for a class picture. If students try to run more than one lap or touch the fire, the College will impose serious disciplinary sanctions - which could include suspension.
We've always loved Dartmouth's annual Homecoming Bonfire. Big kids and little kids alike marvel at the roar of the flames and delight in the enthusiastic crowds or students, alumni and residents. If you haven't been to a Dartmouth Homecoming Bonfire, you should check it out on October 26 on the Dartmouth Green in Hanover.
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