'Not for ourselves, but for the entire Princeton community'
The first bonfire in 12 years blazed Friday night on Cannon Green as thousands of students, faculty, staff and community members looked on.
"Because our school prides itself on tradition," football team co-captain Jeff Terrell '07 told the crowd from the steps of Clio Hall, "this is one that we've wanted for a while."
The football team provided the occasion for the celebration, having completed its sweep of rivals Harvard and Yale last Saturday. The Tigers captured the Ivy League title with a 27-17 win over Dartmouth on Saturday.
At 6 p.m., Carl Teter '95, the captain of the 1994-95 football team — the last one to earn a bonfire — carried the torch onto Cannon Green with the University band. (See more photos here.)
"Are you ready for a bonfire?" USG president Alex Lenahan '07 yelled to the crowd before introducing President Tilghman, who congratulated the team and coaching staff.
"This is nothing compared to the celebration we will have at Princeton Stadium tomorrow when we beat Dartmouth," she said.
Luke Steckel '07, the team's defensive co-captain, said Princetonians "turned the Yale Bowl into the Princeton Bowl last Saturday." The football team, he said, has always had one goal: to win the Ivy League title.
In an interview, Steckel added that having a bonfire was "something we wanted to do, not for ourselves, but for the entire Princeton community."
As the wood began to burn, the crowd, munching on kettle corn and sipping hot chocolate, chanted, "Fire! Fire! Fire!" Hundreds of students raised cameras above the crowd to capture the event, with flashes punctuating the orange glow.
Alice Jones '10 watched as the flames climbed the wood to claim first the effigy of John Harvard and then the outhouse that held Handsome Dan, the Yale bulldog mascot. "I am hella excited for the bonfire," Jones said.
Keith Cochrane '08 was amazed at the size of the fire. "That's 100 times bigger than any fire I've ever seen — ever," he said.
As the fire slowly died down around 7 p.m., the crowd began to thin out. At 7:30 p.m., firefighters who had been standing by the entire time sprayed water on the fading inferno and poked at remaining embers.
The last bonfire was in November 1994.
Simran Singh '98 was freshman class vice president then and came back to campus to see the bonfire. "[There was] quite a bit of school spirit and a lot of chanting," Singh said, noting that there were about 1,000 students at the bonfire in 1994, seemingly fewer than the number who were at Friday's bonfire.
By tradition, undergraduates spent Friday building the bonfire under the supervision of University fire marshal Bob Gregory.
"One of Princeton's great strengths is its desire to honor traditions," Tom Dunne, associate dean of undergraduate students, said in an interview. "The tradition originated with beanie-wearing freshmen collecting wood from the surrounding [area]."
"We wanted to find a way to have undergrads involved without being merely spectators."
Since collegiate football began in 1869, Princeton has defeated Harvard and Yale in the same season 24 times. Historically, Yale has been the more difficult team to beat: In more than a fifth of Princeton's football seasons, the Tigers have defeated the Crimson but fallen to the Bulldogs.
Princeton's rivalry with Yale is among the most played in college football history, second only to Lafayette-Lehigh. Last Saturday's game was the 129th time the Tigers have played the Bulldogs.
The bonfire cost roughly $10,000 and was sponsored by each of the undergraduate classes, the USG and the Office of the Dean of Undergraduate Students.
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