University of South Carolina fans rallied together to prepare for the rivalry game against Clemson on Monday night at the annual tiger burn event at the practice fields outside Williams-Brice Stadium.
“I think that (Clemson is) feeling the way this tiger is going to feel in a second after seeing our big win against Tennessee,” Payton Layne Kahler, a third-year nursing student, said.
Each year the tiger burn is put on the week before the South Carolina football team's game against the Clemson Tigers. The wooden tiger, which was constructed by a group of USC engineering students, is burned for Gamecock fans to energize the crowd and build momentum going into Saturday's game.
USC’s American Society of Mechanical Engineers and Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers, alongside other engineering students, made up the team responsible for constructing the tiger.
“We love this event. We want to make sure it continues to happen, so safety’s obviously a big priority,” Jackson Goldsmith, a third-year mechanical engineering student and the project lead for the tiger burn,said.
The wooden tiger is created from concept drawings that are turned into engineering sketches in computer-aided design software that allow the students to construct the tiger out of wood and chicken wire, Goldsmith said.
The safety involved with handling the fire is as much of a part of the tiger burn as the actual construction is. During its construction, the tiger is approved by the Columbia Fire Marshal and USC engineering professors. At the event, the tiger is filled with wooden palettes, scraps of t-shirts, wooden planks and lighter fluid to make it flammable.
“There’s a lot more that goes into it than just drawing it on the computer and then building it,” fourth-year mechanical engineering student and tiger burn engineer Katrina Wohlgemuth said.
The individuals who handle lighter fluid are not the same individuals who set the fire for safety reasons, and the fire department remains on the site to put the tiger out at the end of the event, Wohlgemuth said.
The event becomes more than just a project for the students who take part in creating the tiger.
“I really think part of the fun is having the student body out here and the environment it creates, and the kind of Gamecock energy that we have,” Goldsmith said.
Dwayne Schumpert, an Irmo resident, was one of the USC graduates in attendance at the burn. Schumpert has been to more than 25 tiger burns and attended this year’s event decked out in a homemade Cocky hat with a tiger hanging from Cocky’s beak by its tail.
“(The tiger burn) means a lot. We wouldn’t have this many people out here if it didn’t mean a lot. It’ll be good prep for Saturday,” Schumpert said.
Many first-time tiger burners also came to show their support. First-year nursing major Annsley Fogner grew up as a USC fan and had been looking forward to her first tiger burn.
“I've been a very pre-existing Gamecock fan since birth. I’ve always heard about the Tiger burn and have been very excited to come,” Fogner said.
This year’s tiger burn continued a USC tradition that unified a range of Gamecock fans whether it was their first time attending the event, or one of many.
“Nothing bonds people like a common enemy,” Fogner said.