What’s a memorable summer event for you? Day at the beach? Visiting a foreign country? Maybe even something as simple as a day at the park? But how do the young folks in Hudson county celebrate the summer’s end? Well, with a wild bonfire, of course!
People have come together for the last six years to enjoy themselves, have fun with their friends, and meet people. 2022 marked the last of the annual bonfire, and today, we’d like to highlight the man behind the bonfire as well as the history behind it.
Mario Fiallos is a Hudson County native from Union City. He is a well-known individual in the local arts/music scene, working with the Miracle Mile company as a consultant and event coordinator. He is an illustrator, having released his book Drawings of Darkness last year. He has also worked as a grant writer for Save Latin America; a nonprofit organization focused on providing resources such as health, employment, and education to Latino communities. For Mario, giving back to the community is essential.
The origins of the bonfire go back to December 2016. It was finals week at Rutgers New Brunswick. By a chance encounter, Mario was reacquainted with an old high school friend who suggested he throw a bonfire by the train tracks down at Tonnelle Avenue. While he was a little unsure, he went through with it, and December 27th marked the annual event for Hudson County. While it started relatively small with a couple of friends, Mario vowed to bring in a bigger crowd the following summer, making it an inclusive event for all.
“It was one of the best nights of our life.” he reminisced.
This event was held at the end of each semester for the next couple of years. Mario’s best memories come from these winters. “We stood by the bonfire until it was enough.” He recalls He went on to recollect how many would drink away until the cold didn’t matter.
2020 rolled around, and we all know how that went; things got complicated. Summer was approaching, and some wondered if the bonfire would happen. Mario felt as if he was jeopardized as an event coordinator. “I felt like the guy with a gun,” he elaborated on his inner turmoil and the lack of consideration people had during the pandemic. Many were more worried about having a good time than wearing their masks and quarantining. After a lot of work, the bonfire came back last year. Locals artists Claude Davis, Swai El Loko, and 201 Cosmic performed for Davis’s album release Diary of a Lost Soul.
Something changed, though; it got stressful setting it up, and the crowd changed as time passed. “It started to become more of a request,” Mario states, eventually leading him to host the final one this past week, a farewell and celebration to a much-loved event.
While it is a bittersweet ending, there’s plenty in store for the future. Outside the scene, Mario plans to return to grad school to focus on becoming a therapist and work with MAPS (Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies). Before his time to leave the Hudson County scene comes, Mario wants to continue serving the community by organizing events, wishing to host a “multimedia presentation” with a focus on art, and developing a showcase experience where one band, DJ, or rapper could present themselves to an audience. The goal is to have the concept of novelty and give people a broader experience. He hopes to create a system of event coordinators to help provide resources to one another in the Hudson county scene. Seeing the resurgence in the arts after 2020, he hopes that the younger people will continue to breathe life into our community when his time comes to move on.