Starting the semester off on the right foot is an essential part of the college experience. That’s why San Francisco State University (SFSU) Campus Recreation helped create the annual GatorFest! Beach Bonfire for students.
The event is part of the university’s GatorFest! initiative. It’s goal is to celebrate the start of the academic year with dozens of events spread out over the fall semester. The Beach Bonfire is hosted by Campus Rec’s Gator Outdoors Adventures (GOA) program and Residential Life (ResLife).
Kyle O’Rourke, a co-student manager at GOA, said the Ocean Beach Bonfire is a way to give students a taste of what Outdoor Recreation programming has to offer at SFSU. As part of the event, attendees arrive at the Ocean Beach at sunset to enjoy activities.
“We’re all about empowering and offering students opportunities to explore and visit new places across San Francisco, California and beyond,” said O’Rourke.
Partnership and Event Details
O’Rourke said the idea for the Ocean Beach Bonfire began after ResLife first started hosting an annual celebratory bonfire every fall semester. From there, GOA decided to partner with ResLife to help boost the offering.
“This was our first time collaborating with them on the event,” said O’Rourke. “We wanted to host this event with ResLife to promote collaboration between partners across campus as our student population is back on campus and in-person this semester en masse. Collaboration across campus we believe is one of the most efficient ways to provide students with fun and fulfilling programming while also exposing them to as many opportunities on campus as possible.”
Students could either meet on campus and travel with leaders from GOA and ResLife, or they could take public transit on their own and meet at the bonfire pits on Ocean Beach. Once at the beach, they were able to play spikeball, throw football, chill and cook s’mores.
The leisurely activities helped create an opportune environment for the social gathering. These types of events are continuing to trend in campus rec as leaders are striving in the wake of COVID-19 to get students back in rec centers by fostering a welcoming atmosphere.
“It wasn’t too crowded that evening, but it was certainly busy,” said O’Rourke. “As students arrived, they had some forms to sign, and then began to enjoy the bustling yet serene atmosphere of Ocean Beach. Some went to check out the water. Some students saw crabs scuttling about in the surf. As the sun lowered and it began to get colder and darker, we started up a bonfire and raffled off some Campus Recreation swag.”
Reaction and Takeaways
O’Rourke said the bonfire is his favorite part of the night, because there were a number of international students who attended the event and had never had s’mores before.
He added the students at the Ocean Beach Bonfire enjoyed the opportunity to get out and explore the city, meet other students and experience the beach. “Hosting an event that encouraged new students to use public transit and gallivant across the city to a new location falls exactly in line with our mission at GOA,” said O’Rourke.
Shannon Magnin, a fellow co-student manager at GOA, said the biggest lesson she took away from the event is how rewarding it is to collab with other SFSU departments.
“It was extremely helpful to get a different perspective working with ResLife to get students involved with outdoor experiences, especially first year or new students,” said Magnin. “I would advise other campus rec departments to create these events at the beginning of the year, because it is a great opportunity to welcome students to campus and get them excited for more outdoor adventures throughout the rest of the semester.”