While attendees of John F. Kennedy High School Bellmore 2015 homecoming ate and played games Friday, the Bellmore Fire Department was busy building a tower of wooden pallets and dousing their creation with accelerant.
On the baseball diamond, hundreds of feet from the school building, several Bellmore firefighters stood next to a fire truck and an ambulance.
They tossed wood into a stack about 9 feet in height, and once the sun started to set, all guests were beckoned to make their way to one of the highlights of the evening, the bonfire.
“It’s our tradition, and we look forward to it,” said Kennedy principal Lorraine Poppe, noting that homecoming bonfires are now rare on Long Island after once being commonplace. “I don’t think most local schools today have grounds large enough to support a bonfire. We’ve got space that’s big enough and far enough from homes for it to be safe, and the fire department runs the whole thing.”
“It’s very important to the students,” says Alex Dobosh, the student government president and 2015 homecoming king. The whole school comes together at the bonfire. Everybody starts the day having fun, then we all meet at the bonfire and finally walk together, as a school to the game.”
It was about 6:30 p.m., around a half-hour after sunset, that the fire department lit the bonfire. The crowd was kept behind ropes about 50 feet away for safety.
Some cheered, others called out school colors, but most stared quietly as the pile of wood crumbled to ash in about 15 minutes.
The fire’s end served as a signal to for the Kennedy Bellmore contingent to make their way to the bleachers ... together.