Annual bonfire rally will not be held before Big Game

Sean Goebel/File
The Big Game Bonfire Rally at The Greek Theater before the Big Game in November 2009.

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This year, UC Berkeley students will not see the bright flames or hear cries of “Freshman more wood!” at the annual bonfire rally hosted before the Big Game each year by the UC Rally Committee.

The Hearst Greek Theatre, the venue in which the committee traditionally holds the bonfire every fall, has already been booked by both Cal Performances and Another Planet Entertainment, who plan to hold a Bob Dylan concert in the theater on Oct. 19. Both agencies will be holding concerts at the theater throughout the month of October, and will put up structures that could be damaged if a bonfire were to be held in the theater.

“We were really looking forward to the Big Game bonfire rally,” said Christina Kellogg, director of public relations and new media at Cal Performances. “We always love working with the students.”

However, Kellogg said the Oct. 19 concert has been planned for months in advance, and April through October has always served as concert season for Another Planet Entertainment, which has produced concerts at the theater for the last nine years.

Committee Chairman Kalina Kwong said the lack of a Big Game bonfire rally this year is largely because of the unusually early date of the Big Game, which is scheduled for Oct. 20.

“Unfortunately, before the PAC-12 schedule was released, Cal Performances and Another Planet Entertainment were already in the process of scheduling their concert season for the month of October,” Kwong said. “No one suspected that Big Game would be taking place during October.”

Because the Greek Theatre is the only campus location capable of handling the bonfire rally, the committee was forced to cancel the event and hold it later in the semester, according to Kwong.

However, a Big Game rally open to the public will be held the night before the game at Edwards Stadium, without the traditional bonfire, according to committee Director of Rallies Katie Miller.

“We’re still going to maintain the traditional elements of the Big Game rally,” Miller said. “We hope that the students will see a good show and will show their support like they always have.”

To simulate the traditional bonfire at the Edwards Stadium, the committee is hoping to bring in pyrotechnics that could artificially generate fire through chemicals.

“We want to create something that looks exactly like a bonfire and burns exactly like a bonfire,” Kwong said. “I really think that the Big Game rally we’re planning will be able to somewhat uphold the Californian spirit.”

Despite numerous discussions with Cal Performances, the committee realized there were too many cost and safety issues to hold the bonfire at the theatre during concert season, according to Kwong.

“There are many musicians going in and out,” Kwong said. “Also, the concert structure isn’t fireproof and costs a lot to put up and take down. It was just too much money and too much stress for the people at the Greek.”

According to Kellogg, taking apart the canopy, stage extension and rigging set-up at the theater for the concerts would take an entire week to dismantle and cost thousands of dollars.

Though there will not be a bonfire rally before the Big Game, the committee hopes to continue the campus bonfire tradition and is working to organize a bonfire rally later in the school year. If the committee is successful, a bonfire rally will be held at the theater on Nov. 9 before the game against Oregon, according to Kwong.

However, the committee’s 2012-13 budget of $35,490 can only cover one large rally per school year, according to committee Treasurer Ashley Defenbaugh. In order to hold two large rallies and still have enough money for the rest of the school year, the committee will need to raise $15,000.

Currently, the rally committee is attempting to raise the money through donations, Kwong said.

“Without this $15,000, the rally committee won’t be able to hold a bonfire rally this year,” Defenbaugh said. “The bonfire is one of the most spectacular events in the entire school year. To not be able to put one on would be devastating. I’m hopeful that the students will be able to raise this money.”