As May rolls around and stressed Vassar students hustle from one class to the next, bounce from office hours to endless group project meetings and of course prepare for those upcoming essays and tests, fun and relaxing weekend events become ever-more important to students’ sanity. On Saturday, April 21, Light the Night, the annual bonfire and music event put on by Raymond and Strong Houses, brought a lively energy to Joss Beach. This year, the event featured student bands including The Roundabout Ramblers, The Morning Moon, Mayla 40, Lumber Party and Midway. There was also a performance by the Barefoot Monkeys, a Polaroid booth, Rita’s Italian ice and bonfires with s’mores.
Raymond President Noah Pliss ’20 commented in an email statement, “The event is really centered around the idea of campfires and how they bring people together. People come to sit around campfires with the intention not only to roast marshmallows, but also to enjoy warmth with others.” The event was crafted as a cheerful bonding activity to bring the campus together before the school year ends.
The hosts further highlighted the creative and community-building aspects of the fest. Specifically, Light the Night celebrated a diverse range of student performance. Strong House Secretary Yesenia Garcia ’20 [Full disclosure: Garcia is Humor and Satire Editor of The Miscellany News] commented prior to Light the Night, “It should be a very wholesome event. I’m excited to see all of the student performances. I think it will be a fun way for people to support their friends. I also feel like the fire will bring people together.” Pliss agreed with Garcia, stating, “I’m really excited for the fire, to be honest. Campfires were such a big part of my childhood but I feel like we rarely get to experience them on Vassar’s campus. Furthermore, I’m excited to see the talent that each band and the Barefoot Monkeys bring to the stage. I hope that other people feel the same way about fire and that their concert experience will be enhanced by the presence of the campfires.”
Light the Night attendee Tabraiz Lodhi ’20 commented, “I thoroughly enjoyed the campfire aspect, and it was really fun to make s’mores and watch the performances at the same time. There was a good mix of everything—eating, watching, talking and bonding. I definitely felt that the event was both creative and personal. It was so nice of the House Teams to orchestrate it.” Raymond House Student Advisor (HSA) Kael Ragnini ’19 was happy with how the event went as well, commenting in an email statement, “It turned out better than we’d ever dreamed and we hope that the Vassar community––students, faculty, and families alike––enjoyed the event as a space to just be together and have fun with some outdoor activities.”
While the event may have been all fun and games for the community, many hours of hard work went into planning it. In fact, this was the first time that the Raymond and Strong House Teams have collaborated on an event. It was a process that involved a complex web of coordination and communication, but one that also marked their new unity as sister houses. Pliss said, “While planning the event, both the Raymond and the Strong House Teams recognized that the campfire is emblematic of the intentionality that we want to create within our Houses. Since we’re sharing the same House Advisor, Michael Drucker, next year, we’ll be ‘sister Houses’. We’re hoping that [Light] the Night will kick off an intentional, warm relationship between ourselves.”
To ensure that planning went smoothly, the house teams had different jobs and each member was encouraged to embrace their leadership abilities. “Strong House Team was in charge of fire and food, and Raymond House Team was in charge of publicity and entertainment,” explained Pliss. “Mackenzie, the Strong President, and I have been messaging each other back and forth for the past month to make sure that we have all of our bases covered. Ultimately, this event would not be happening without the hard work of every member on the Raymond and Strong House Teams. I am extremely grateful to be planning alongside such brilliant student leaders.” Garcia agreed, finding that one of the most enjoyable parts of Light the Night was getting to collaborate with Raymond. She commented, “Working with Raymond has been really great. They are all wonderful people.”
While the teams derived a lot of enjoyment from working with each other, coordinating with outsiders was substantially harder. “In terms of working with outside people, [such as dealing with the task of] getting the fires approved, I know our president Mackenzie was really stressed about that. There was a lot of miscommunication,” Garcia commented. Strong House President Mackenzie Nielsen ’20 corroborated this statement, commenting, “[There were] some bumps in the road…which were unnecessary and annoying to deal with, but everything ended up working out.” Regardless of the obstacles that popped up, she was excited for the event, stating, “I love bonfires and events like this and feel so happy and relieved that all the work I put into it and the stress I dealt with is paying off!”
All in all, for the House Team members, the event fully brought out the meaningfulness behind both participating in House Team and doing something nice for the Vassar community. Garcia commented, “I love being on House Team. Living on House Team this year has really helped me define my community, and I like that I can be there for other people.” Ragnini had a similar view, stating, “I think House Team provides a really cool opportunity for students to plan events and create programming that speaks to the needs and values of our community, and I think that’s what we did here.”
Pliss also felt that a reason House Team has been so enjoyable is because of the wonderful people on the team who have worked very hard to make
their house, as well as house-sponsored events, positive, inclusive spaces. Pliss said, “House Team has been a challenging, but extremely rewarding experience. Our team has strived to build upon the energy created in Raymond by our House Advisor, Michael Drucker, and the House Teams that came before us. And I believe that we have. When I walk into Raymond, it [is] more like a home than just a house. That feeling is ultimately the most important reason for House Team to exist—but it’s not easy to create. It takes intentionality, patience, and commitment. I feel blessed to have had this experience and to have been able to work with such creative and clever people.”
While the Vassar community thoroughly enjoyed Light the Night —as evidenced by the large crowds of students who flocked to the bonfires and watched their friends perform—it seems that the event also brought tremendous joy to the hosts, allowing House Team members to contribute to campus life as well as to bond with different Houses in the process. As Pliss mentioned, it was a moment for warmth and connection for all involved.