Homecoming Bonfire goes up in flames


Cassie Labay

Texan Rider, Walker Kirk, lighting his torch at the L.V. Risinger Bonfire on March 19, 2021.

On Friday, March 19, 2021 the L.V. Risinger Memorial Homecoming Bonfire was finally lit.

After 225 man hours and over 10,500 pallets, the bonfire was ready to be burnt to the ground. The bonfire was not just lit with the intention to satisfy a Homecoming tradition, but also in memory of  Plowboys that have passed recently.

This tradition takes place every year on the Friday of Homecoming week. Alumni and students alike attend the lighting ceremony that is conducted by select senior students and others.

This year, like the ones before it, had many special guests light the flame. These include: senior head drum major, Taylor Welch, senior cheerleaders, Tyler Frank, Ashleigh Fox and Amanda Knight. The Texan Stars, Taylor Gibbons and Madison Steger. Senior plowboy representative, Tyler Smith, Plowboy President, Koll Bickerstaff and foreman, Ellet Van also made this bonfire possible. Brother Brass, Brother Braincell, Sister Holliday and Sister Stuck of the Purple Poo. Texan Rider, Walker Kirk, Student Government Association (SGA) Executive Board Programing Vice Presidents, Davi Wood and Marco Salazar, Student Body President, Cahlen Cheatham and Vice President, Emily Love. Along with Athletic Director, Lonn Reisman, Vice President for Student Affairs, Dr. Kelli Styron, Tarleton’s 16 President Dr. James Hurley and first lady Kindall Hurley.

One worry that many senior students had about being involved in the ceremony was the actual lighting of the meticulously placed towers of pallets. It can be a very intimidating task since it is a tradition that has been carried out for many years.

Lighting the flame is most certainly a huge honor to be able to participate in. However this is not the case for the bands senior head drum major. She was up to the challenge.

“This is my second year being able to light the bonfire so I am super excited to be able to do it and not scared since I have done it before,” Welch said.

The experience is one that only a select few can be a part of. This year it was Senior Ashleigh Fox’s time to shine.

“This is a super exciting experience to be a part of and I am so glad I can light [the bonfire] today,” Fox said.

The Tarleton State University Homecoming bonfire is one that is open to everyone to attend and is one of the most widely known traditions.

“The bonfire really brings the community together as one. All the spirit organizations and students as a union. Being able to light it this year is really special to us,” Brother Brass and Brother Braincell said.

Being that Homecoming was moved to the spring semester rather than the fall, this led to some new challenges for the Tarleton State University Plowboys.

“Building the bonfire is our favorite bonding experience since it is usually done in the fall with the new recruits. It’s our time to bond with them and grow as a family,” Bickerstaff said. “I knew that the weather and environment would be a little bit different. I requested four weeks instead of the usual three, though we didn’t use the extra week because of the ice storm we had and the slowness of our pallets being delivered.”

This year’s bonfire was made in memory of passed plowboys Dalton Lopez and Samuel Owens. Their lives were celebrated by two memorial signs placed highest on the bonfire. An emotional moment for both the plowboys of present and past generations. This was also a very emotional time for Advisor Lathes Towns, also known as Momma T.

Building this bonfire is something these Plowboys pride themselves on. In the Van family this is certainly true. The Plowboys have built this bonfire every year since it’s very first class in 1984 with the original four plowboys. Younger brother of Leslie Van, an original plowboy, Joe Van, was in attendance Friday night. Van served as a plowboy from 1985 to1987 and was happy to attend this year’s lighting. Van has been attending bonfire as an alumni ever since his son Ellet Van has become a plowboy.

Son, Ellet Van, is a senior student and served as this year’s bonfire foreman. Van explained that his son is the 16 family member to go to Tarleton in the Van family. His father could not be more proud of how much this tradition has grown and how it has been a huge part of their family’s lives.

“The bonfire that we built was where the softball field is now… it has gotten much bigger and much more organized since then. It has really turned into an event,” Joe Van said. “It used to be just something we did because everyone has a Homecoming bonfire but now this is really a tradition.This is at such a bigger caliber. There is nothing else like it.”

The Tarleton State University Bonfire has only gotten bigger. It is easily said that it is the largest man made bonfire in the state!

To top off the night, President Hurley congratulated the Plowboys by presenting them with the Presidential coin to show his gratitude for the hard work the Plowboys did on this spring semester Homecoming Bonfire.

“If you love Tarleton and you love tradition then you better love a Plowboy,” Hurley said.

The Homecoming Bonfire is a tradition that was started in the 1920s, and was later renamed to commemorate student, L.V Risenger. It was named after the man himself who defended our bonfire against the 1939 air raid by rival school that is now known as University North Texas (NTAC). NTAC was attempting to light our bonfire early.

But to their surprise Tarleton student L.V. Risenger was waiting for them. Atop the watertower he stood and was able to save the bonfire by throwing a 2×4 piece of wood into an incoming plane’s propeller. While the pilots of the craft were unharmed, their plans were foiled and the bonfire was saved.