KALAMAZOO, Mich.—A community celebration of epic proportions, Bronco Bash is expected to bring more than 17,000 people to Western Michigan University's campus. The annual event, planned for Tuesday, Aug. 29, from 3 to 6 p.m. at Sangren Plaza next to the brand new WMU Student Center, is the unofficial kickoff to the new academic year.
"Bronco Bash is a communitywide networking event," says Kenzie Meyer, graduate assistant of campus programming. "It's for everybody, but it's really a place to find your people and find your place at Western. And having all of the registered student organizations there and having them be the backbone of Bash is always huge; it's a way for us to support our students."
WMU President Edward Montgomery will officially kick off the festivities by firing Boomer, the cannon. Then Lance Taylor, the new head football coach, will fire up the crowd before the Bronco Marching Band, dance and cheer teams collaborate for a joint performance. Visitors can also check out a number of fun activities such as an exotic petting zoo, henna tattoo and caricature artists, giant Jenga and Connect Four games, and a 360 photo booth. Several student groups like the Voices of WMU Gospel Choir and various Greek organizations will perform throughout the event, as well.
"We're so excited to give the campus community a taste of what our Greek orgs are all about, and step and stroll routines are just part of that fun. It will also be a preview of the annual National Pan-Hellenic Council Yard Show coming up in September," says Rodney Coleman-Robinson, graduate assistant for fraternity and sorority life.
More than 400 individual entities have registered for spots at Bronco Bash 2023, from registered student organizations and clubs to University departments, programs, local businesses and food vendors.
"We're really excited about all the sponsors we have, and they're bringing in a lot of stuff to give to our students: free merch and free swag—most of the food vendors will be giving out free food as well," says Arjun Singh, Bronco Bash vendor relations intern. "And we have three different cars coming in: Western's Formula SAE team, which has an F1-style car; the Baja SAE team, which has an outdoor, off-road-style car; and the Sunseeker car, which is a fully electric solar car made by Western students. And we have a local business bringing in an F1 simulator."
A massive undertaking, the event is run by a team of students who have been planning and organizing since May.
"It's really cool to see not only how excited students are to go and experience Bronco Bash but also to see how excited they are to help make it happen," says Ella Smith, event staff and volunteer intern.
"This is the greatest intro to my career path because I'm a digital marketing major," adds Izzy Lescelius, Bronco Bash marketing and design intern. "I've had so much fun getting to know the staff and more about the school. And I love being part of Bash because I had so much fun last year when I came, so I just wanted to be a part of it and show it off to other students."
"I'm a business analytics major, so being a part of the project and making it happen, chasing targets and deadlines, has been a really good experience for me," Singh says.
It's also helping students step out of their own comfort zones and build crucial skills and relationships outside of their fields of study.
"I'm going into nursing, but I'm also a transfer student. So I felt like being on the Bronco Bash team would help me break out of my shell and also meet new people from all different majors," adds Sarah Norris, event management intern.
Meyer, who is pursuing a master's degree in English and considering studying Spanish as well, says her experience may translate into new opportunities down the road.
"It's making me look toward diverse career paths: maybe in campus programming or in campus places and spaces and administrative offices. It's been a lot of fun."
While it's easy to get caught up in the excitement and energy that comes with live performances and the opportunity to load up on all kinds of free goodies, Bash is more than just a good time, says Wayne Bond, assistant director for campus engagement.
"You are finding out about communities that are available to you. You're being able to see the faces of department heads, chairs, professors—engagement that you really need to be able to thrive. And you're able to find a community that fits you where you're at."
"At my old school, we didn't have events like this. So, it was nice coming in as a new student (last year) and having an event like this where you see the connection happening in real life. It's where I met my friends last year," adds Lescelius. "It's so great to see everything come full circle."
Bronco Bash will also be the launching point for a new Bronco Pride Points program, which allows students to earn points for engaging in events on campus. Points can be exchanged for prizes and raffle entries throughout the academic year.
"Student organizations will be able to reserve their events as part of this, so there's an attendance piece. And students can start keeping track of who engages, and we as a University can better understand what engagement looks like," Bond says.
For more WMU news, arts and events, visit WMU News online.