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Bruin Tracks: Light Our Fire


By Anthony Cube

Published Oct 1, 2011 12:00 AM


Illustration by Michael Byers.

A sea of blue and gold converges on Wilson Plaza. The sounds of eight-claps, cheering and chants of "Beat 'SC" fill the night air. This is not just any collegiate pep rally leading up to the big game. The show's line-up of comedy improv, song parodies and hip-hop dance crews should be enough to inspire a crowd of loyal fans, but not this one. Words from Chancellor Gene Block, Coach Rick Neuheisel '85 and his star players aren't enough to satisfy.

The pinnacle arrives as fans turn to the 30-foot wooden tower. "Light that fire!" bellows from the sound system. The lights dim. The music starts. In seconds, majestic flames light the night sky. It's time to party!

From its origins in the early '20s, UCLA has held rallies and bonfires in support of its football team against opponents such as Occidental College and Caltech. But it wasn't until 1929, when UCLA first played USC in football, that the bonfire became the symbol of an historic rivalry.

And they started it.

"USC students snuck over to the old [Vermont] campus in the middle of the night [a year or two before the university moved to Westwood] and burned the wood intended for the fire. It almost ruined our pregame bonfire that year," recalls Sherman Grancell '30.

As the tradition grew, the rally evolved. When the rally date moved from October to late November to be closer to the USC game, issues like red flag wind advisories and academic noise regulations often resulted in less-than-desirable alternatives. Also, Blue and Gold Week (now I ♥ UCLA Week) emerged to promote school spirit with activities that included parades, contests and live entertainment.

Now managed by the UCLA Alumni Association and its student volunteers, the Beat 'SC Bonfire and Rally has become the embodiment of what UCLA stands for: excellence, tradition and community. Why else would thousands come each year to brave chilly temperatures, delay studying for exams and trek through Westside traffic, if not for this quintessential UCLA experience?

The torch of enthusiasm for the event has been passed from generation to generation, from Grancell's day to the present. Sophomore Katie Neipris explains, "The bonfire was one of the most memorable experiences of my freshman year. Being part of that energy was an incredible feeling!"

For senior Josh Aulakh, president of the Student Alumni Association, the bonfire was more than just about the game or the rivalry. "For the first time, I felt that I was a part of something bigger than myself and that this connection to UCLA would last a lifetime."

Don't miss out on this true Bruin experience, steeped in UCLA tradition and sure to ignite the fire within you.

Beat 'SC Bonfire and Rally. Monday, Nov. 21, 7:30 p.m., Wilson Plaza. For more information, visit or call (310) 825-2586.