Homecoming bonfire moved due to administrative decision

Event that was previously held early in the fall semester moved to homecoming week.


Owsley watches over the bonfire prior to the Hollywood Undead concert. Max Jackson | Staff Photographer

Joe Pye, News Editor

Corrections: In the print version of this story, Program Board was incorrectly stated as responsible for the date change of the bonfire. In actuality, the event is an FAU Traditions event planned by Student Activities and Involvement and advised by assistant director of the organization Richard Mahler. Mahler, not Program Board, also cited reasons as to why the event was moved.

The story stated that Program Board has not promoted the bonfire outside of its social media.That was not correct, as the board has placed posters around campus, including having its staff give out fliers.

The story states that the 2015 bonfire had the event solely on the lawn behind the Student Union. This was false as the event was actually split between the Track and Field Complex and the Outdoor Stage. Richard Mahler’s position was also incorrectly listed. Mahler is the assistant director of Student Activities and Involvement, not the assistant director of Student Involvement.

The ninth annual bonfire event has been moved from its usual time of year at the beginning of the football season to Homecoming week for the first time in nine years.

The decision to change the date was made by campus administrators, who discussed the change with several campus entities including former Program Board staff and campus safety administrators.

In the past, FAU has hosted the bonfire during other parts of the year. With the exception of 2011 when it was pushed to October because of  weather conditions, the event has taken place in late August or early September since 2007.

When contacted by the University Press as to why the event was pushed back, the associate director of student activities and involvement Richard Mahler said it was because of reasons related to the beginning of the semester’s Weeks of Welcome being too packed with other events and the potential for better weather later in the fall.

“The Annual bonfire has become one of FAU’s most iconic events,” said former Program Board Director Jacob Sherbondy in an email from 2015. “Every year we have seen growth in both quality and numbers. Last year the crowd size was estimated around 5,000.”

This shuffling of traditions is not something new to the university, as past events have struggled to find a permanent home on the calendar.

Program Board told the UP in April of 2016 that it would be moving the spring concert Freaker’s Ball to October so it could introduce an electronic dance music festival called OwlFest in the spring instead.

“Freaker’s ball as we’ve known it, is not happening in April, It is being moved to October in its placement,” Sherbondy said in an email. “In 1976 … 40 years ago it used to originally be a Halloween party with live music.”

Sherbondy also wrote how from 2002-07 it was moved to April, but this year Freaker’s Ball would be pushed to October like it was before.

Well, it’s October and it looks like we are not getting the traditional Freaker’s Ball that’s had past hip-hop acts like Kendrick Lamar, Method Man, Red Man or Big Sean.

Instead, we’re getting another OwlFest with Kesha’s new rock band, Kesha and the Creepies, which surprised students at Kent State last month who expected to hear the musician’s top-40 hits.

Last year, Homecoming stuck with its tradition of having its own musical guests, like the YouTube-famous duo Timeflies, while this year, the bonfire concert will switch things up.

Cal Shapiro of Timeflies sprays water at the crowd of about 200 people. Mohammed F Emran | Asst. Creative Director
Cal Shapiro of Timeflies sprays water at the crowd of about 200 people. Mohammed F Emran | Staff Photographer

The event will feature country singer Chase Bryant, whose 2015 debut single “Take It On Back,” hit the top 10 on Billboard’s Country Airplay chart. Homecoming events, including the bonfire, are paid for out of activity and service fees, which are collected as part of students’ tuition and go toward benefiting the student body.

Since 2012, Program Board has paid at least $12,000 to bring various punk, ska, heavy metal and rock bands to play, “catering to the traditional rock n roll theme of the bonfire,” according to Sherbondy.

In 2014, there was a significant increase in spending to bring All Time Low to FAU for $45,000. Program Board then spent $50,000 for Hollywood Undead to perform in 2015.

Hollywood Undead came out in masks in the beginning of their set. Mohammed F Emran | Staff Photographer
Hollywood Undead came out in masks in the beginning of their set. Mohammed F Emran | Staff Photographer

The total budget for Homecoming during 2015-17 has been $205,436. The budget has previously been as high as $240,044 from 2013-15, and as low as $160,000 in 2010-11.

The UP reached out to Mahler for comment on how much Program Board spent to bring Kesha and LunchMoney Lewis to campus, but was told it  had not finalized their contract fee.

According to an anonymous source, this year there is an estimated budget of $95,000 for Kesha alone to perform, not including LunchMoney Lewis and Chase Bryant.

The UP reached out with records requests over a month ago for costs to bring Kesha, but has yet to hear back as of publication time.

The fall 2015 bonfire brought a change by having the fire and the musical event take place at different times on the same night, with the concert being held behind the Student Union and the fire being held next to the FAU track. According to Sherbondy, this will put more emphasis on athletics, giving coach Charlie Partridge more time to address the students in attendance of the bonfire.

But this year Program Board did not did not disclose through FAU’s media outlets like in previous years that the event date had been moved.

Notifications of the change were sent through social media on Aug. 30 in place of an official announcement, which left students who don’t follow Program Board on social media out of the loop.

The bonfire will take place as part of Homecoming on Oct. 24 at the FAU Stadium Lawn.

Joe Pye is the news editor of the University Press. For information regarding this or other stories, email [email protected] or tweet him @Jpeg3189.