Unity. Camaraderie. Spirit. Tradition. The amount of words that can be used to describe Bonfire at Texas A&M are limitless. One of the most time-honored and revered of traditions at A&M, the Fightin' Texas Aggie Bonfire means so very much to Aggies all around the world.
Originally built to symbolize the burning desire that Aggies have to BEAT THE HELL OUTTA archrival University of Texas, Bonfire has traditionally been lit at the Texas A&M Polo Fields in the northeast part of campus just prior to the annual Lone Star showdown with the Longhorns in November. In recent years however, Bonfire has represented much more than just beating UT. It's a visible display of the Aggie Family working together to create and support something grand--showing what we can all do, not individually, but as one. It's about Aggies from all walks of life coming together to build something that we love and hold dear. Beyond Aggieland, the connection Aggies have to other Aggies is nearly inexplicable. Bonfire is a an outward display of this connection. Engineered and built entirely by students, Aggie Bonfire is one of the oldest, most fiercely and loyally respected traditions at Texas A&M.
Since 1909, Aggie Bonfire has been an integral part of Aggie life at Texas A&M, and has burned every year, except for three--in 1963 when it was cancelled after the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, and most recently and painfully--in 1999 when the stack collapsed on November 18, killing 11 Aggie students, 1 former student, and injuring many more. Bonfire also did not burn in 2000 out of respect for the Aggies we lost in 1999, and because of a continued effort to come up with a safer version of the tradition. Currently the status of Bonfire is under review and remains unclear. According to The Guinness Book of World Records, Aggie Bonfire is considered the largest bonfire in the world. If the game against UT is played at Kyle Field, Bonfire has traditionally burned the night before. When the Ags play in Austin, Bonfire burns two nights before the game.
All members of the 12th Man, including the Corps of Cadets, sororities, fraternities, dorms, clubs, and any other good Ag who wants to help, have built Aggie Bonfire. All workers who contribute time and energy to the Bonfire effort must complete extensive safety training. The wood used for bonfire comes from land designated to be cleared by the owner for construction or agricultural projects--no trees are destroyed for the sole purpose of Aggie Bonfire.
Bonfire stands more than 55 ft. high with a circumference of 195 ft.
Each tree is cut by hand using axes, loaded on to trucks for transfer back to A&M, then stacked and wired together at Bonfire site. At the end of October, usually around Halloween, the centerpole, or 100-ft. backbone of Bonfire, is erected at the Bonfire site. Centerpole is made of two poles of southern yellow pine that are fused together to make one. These poles are donated from a mill in Lufkin, Texas. Things really start to take shape at this point, as the arrival of centerpole is the official beginning of "stack." After many hours of blood, sweat and tears, the result is a massive 55-ft. high (officially limited in size a few years ago!) bonfire with a circumference of 195 feet. As the Tampa Tribune (12/09/99) describes it, Bonfire "...is a network of intricately rigged and reinforced timber, the directions for its construction handed down through generations. A few of the tools are handed down between students who attend one of the finest engineering schools in the country."
More than 125,000 hours are put into the 7,000-8,000 6-tier log "stack." Bonfire burns at "dark-thirty," or approximately 30 minutes after the sun sets. The Red Pots, as well as the Fightin’ Texas Aggie Band, march in around Bonfire’s perimeter. Torches are thrown on to the huge mass, and the stack begins a glorious blaze. Yell Practice begins shortly after Bonfire is lit. This is the only Yell Practice of the season that is not held at Midnight. Coaches and players give motivating speeches to encourage the 12th Man. A special tradition at Bonfire is the recitation of "The Last Corps Trip," a poem written by P.H. DuVall, Jr., Class of ’51.
A specific student leadership chain-of-command organizes and builds Bonfire. Builders each wear a helmet, or "pot" to ensure safety. Different corps outfits, dorms, organizations, etc. are recognized by the insignias and designs on their pots. The following can identify the leaders and organizers of Bonfire:
|B/CS Eagle photo by Butch Ireland|
Red Pots: In charge of Bonfire. These guys do it all. From financing, to building, the Red Pots are the heart and soul of the Bonfire effort. Eight seniors and eight juniors make up this lofty group. Brown Pots: Assistants to the Red Pots.
Grey Pots: Climbers that work primarily on "stack."
Centerpole Pots: Juniors and Seniors in charge of the centerpole.
Pink Pots: Female Bonfire workers in charge of various activities, including concessions.
Yellow Pots: Selected by the Red Pots. These Ags are in charge of directing Bonfire activities for their group or organization.
Long live Aggie Bonfire. May it burn as long as the Aggie Spirit remains--forever.