Construction of the Bonfire

Title: Construction of the Bonfire

Informant info:

Kellen D’Alleva is currently a nineteen-year-old sophomore at Dartmouth college, which means she’s a member of the class of 2019. Hailing from Long Island, NY, she is a member of the women’s lacrosse team and intends to major in economics.

General Info:

  • Customary, ritual, tradition
  • English
  • United States of America

Social / cultural context:

Kellen was interviewed by herself at Dartmouth College just weeks after she experienced her second homecoming bonfire.


The homecoming bonfire is a Dartmouth tradition like no other. Since 1910, it has been the focus of homecoming weekend and “Dartmouth night.” In the early years of the tradition’s existence, it was customary for the bonfire to be constructed entirely by freshmen before they run laps around it. However, recently the majority of the construction is done by an actual construction company while certain groups or teams from around campus show up to help and decorate the boards of wood with their group names or logos.


“Every year during the week leading up to homecoming weekend it’s tradition that members of the freshmen class help build the bonfire. Last fall, my entire class of girls on the lacrosse team and I went to the green on the Thursday of homecoming week and spent roughly a few hours building part of the bonfire. Afterwards, like many other organizations on campus, we wrote all of our names and DWL (for Dartmouth Women’s Lacrosse) on the boards we added to the structure.”

Informant’s comments:

When asked why they felt compelled to help construct the bonfire, Kellen responded that no one in particular told them they had to do it, but rather that it was a Dartmouth tradition.

Collector’s comments:

The informant seemed generally happy and cheerful reminiscing about this memory, which could be potential reasoning for why it’s a tradition that has lasted for so long.

Collectors Info: Armin Mortazavi, Class of 2019, hometown: Potomac, MD

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