Bonfire flames spewed embers into the cold, Thursday-night sky and cast its orange glow on hundreds of huddling students.
CSU's band blared tunes across the West Lawn while a popcorn vendor served up the warm snack to students and community members who bundled up and braved the freezing temperatures.
The gathering ignited this year's Homecoming rituals, set to pack the weekend with school spirit-inspiring activities.
"Homecoming is really all about this university, the students," said Rams starting quarterback Justin Holland. "And that's who we're going to play for."
Holland and the Rams are set to face off against the University of Utah on Saturday.
Students chattered and cheered around the blaze while Poudre firefighters kept watch on the controlled flames.
One freshman said the event was awe-inspiring – but it stunk.
"It smelled bad, but other than that it was good," said technical journalism freshman Michael Stanley. He attributed the smell to standing water nearby. "It was a nice, big flame. I was happy."
For the grand finale, the giant, white "A" – for CSU's original team name "Aggies" – etched on the foothills west of campus became rimmed in flames. Fireworks exploded above.
"The fireworks were a good touch," said freshman business major Heather Hill.
Many basked in the bonfire's heat until the flames tore its fuel down to smoldering rubble minutes later. But freshmen Jamie Waugh and Kalyn Clemens were savoring the chill, which the National Weather Service said dipped as low as 28 degrees Fahrenheit.
"I love the weather. This is our favorite weather," said Waugh, an interior design major. "We like to snowboard."
"It was more fun than we thought it would be," added Clemens, a technical journalism major. The pair said they planned to go to a nearby coffee shop to warm up and wind down.
Homecoming festivities are set to continue at tonight's women's volleyball game against Bringham Young University and with a pancake breakfast on Saturday morning.