Bonfire celebrating Princeton football victories lights up cold November night
Princeton celebrated football victories over Harvard and Yale by lighting a bonfire Sunday that sent flames and smoke curling skyward on a frigid evening.
"A raw, cold November night like this one always puts me in the mood for a bonfire," President Christopher L. Eisgruber said as he stood on platform behind Nassau Hall and faced a cheering circle of Princetonians ringing Cannon Green.
"We're going to have a bonfire tonight because of this very special team," said Eisgruber, pointing to the football players, who finished the season with an 8-2 record. The Tigers earned the right to a bonfire, a tradition dating to the late 19th century, by sweeping the Crimson and the Bulldogs.
The team "brought home an Ivy League championship to this campus, where it belongs," said Eisgruber, wrapped in a long orange and black scarf.
"I want you to look out there at all these students and alumni and faculty and staff and University and town coming together because of what you did," Eisgruber said. "Thank you for beating Harvard. Thank you for beating Yale. Thank you for letting us light this bonfire tonight."
After remarks by Ford Family Director of Athletics Gary Walters, Charles W. Caldwell Jr. '25 Head Coach of Football Bob Surace and students and team members, players escorted by firefighters touched torches to the base of the pyre by the cannon on the green. The pyre, topped by an outhouse recording the scores of the Harvard and Yale games, took a few minutes to catch fire. Soon, flames swirled and wood crackled. The crowd roared as the outhouse was consumed and its framework toppled into the pile.
Students, bundled in heavy coats and layered in hooded sweatshirts and jackets, snapped photos and took videos with their cameras and mobile phones. For sophomores, juniors and seniors, it was a second consecutive fall celebrated with a bonfire. While students in 2012 collected funds for victims of Hurricane Sandy, this year they collected donations to benefit relief efforts for victims of Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines.
As the day began, there was some question whether the fire would be lit because of high winds. University and town of Princeton officials monitored forecasts and conditions during the day and by early evening decided to proceed as planned. Only a mild breeze was blowing as the ceremony began shortly after 7 p.m. The temperature was a brisk 25 degrees.