Burned tradition

Mark Gibson & Ryan Cortes

On Oct. 13, a giant red blob will be scorched and burned on the Boca campus.
Mike Burdman, coordinator of student government, is in charge of getting wood to build Big Red, the misshapen mascot of the Western Kentucky University Hilltoppers. At its annual bonfire, FAU usually burns an effigy of the football team’s first opponent of the season.
But poor weather postponed this year’s blaze, originally scheduled for Aug. 25, until mid- October. That broke a four-year tradition.
“It’s a tradition we try and uphold every year,” Burdman said. “Unfortunately, the weather didn’t cooperate with us this year.”
Although the bonfire had to be cancelled, it is now scheduled for two days before FAU’sfirst game in its new stadium — which might make the tradition even more special.
“We’re really going to make this a real big, important spectacle that students aren’t going to want to miss,” Burdman said. “This is going to be big. We’re opening a stadium — you only get to do that once. We’re going to get everybody out here for this.”
Burdman added that there were surprises in store.
“We’ll be unveiling something special that night,” he said.
That something special, at least according to student body president Ayden Maher, will be a permanent fixture on campus.
“After the pep rally, we will be unveiling the first permanent large bronze item on campus,” Maher said.
But what really makes memories is the little stories that become part of tradition.
“The first official fall bonfire was four years ago, and we burnt an effigy of Texas that year,”Burdman said. “The second year we burnt a big red ‘N’ for Nebraska, and all that did was anger them.”
Burdman had trouble getting the fire started around that big, red “N”. He looked at it, perplexed, and wondered why it wouldn’t light.
“[The] fire department’s like, ‘What are we gonna do?’” Burdman said. “I was like, ‘I got it!’”
As onlookers stood by, Burdman brought a 2.5-gallon container of gas and tossed it into the fire.
“And the whole pile just went poooof,” he said. Burdman was met with applause from all — even head coach Howard Schnellenberger.
“Coach runs out from behind the pile, fist pumping in the air,” Burdman said. “It was just awesome.”
“Burdman’s my hero!” Schnellenberger yelled.
On Oct.13, Burdman and the rest of FAU get another chance to build memories.
“We’ve taken the bonfire and pep rally and turned it into a whole day of events,” Maher said.