Chris Pauli, benefactor, hopes to retire soon from setting up bonfire

Grace Logan

Students’ cheers and shouts filled the air as the flames of the fire illuminated hundreds of smiling faces. Chris Pauli stood away from the crowd of students, watching the festivities with his daughter and wife. Without Pauli, one key element of  wouldn’t exist. 

Without Pauli, there would be no fire. 

At the end of the night, Pauli watched one of his last bonfires extinguish. 

“My family says I’m retiring, but I have to find someone else first,” Pauli said. “I’ll probably end up doing it another year. I don’t have any kids or friends with kids going to SMNW anymore after this year. I mostly did it because Kaitlin, my daughter, worked so hard to bring it back I hate to see it just die off again.”

During Kaitlin’s junior year in 2018, the turf was installed on the dirt baseball fields. This left no place for the Bonfire to be set without causing damage to the new fields. 

Kaitlin worked with administrators at the building and district level, as well as the fire department and her father to ensure the Bonfire would be held her senior year in 2019. 

“When I was a freshman, we had the Bonfire and I thought it was the coolest thing ever,” Pauli said. “When you look back on your high school experiences, you remember little things like Bonfire. I wanted it to go on for my little sister, friends and for myself.” 

Since then, the Pauli family has had a hand in each Bonfire Assembly.

“My dad really enjoys seeing everyone have so much fun,” Kaitlin said. “It’s just pure joy. There’s no evil intention, no drugs or alcohol, just kids having fun.”