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Dillo Day: 10 Things to know

Music fest lineup includes A$AP Ferg, Daya, Teyana Taylor

Dillo Day has been a staple on the Northwestern calendar for almost 50 years, and the nation’s largest student-run music festival is about to make history.

In 2019, four female acts will take the Main Stage, where there’s never been more than one in any previous year.

It’s all part of the plan for Emily Davidson and Molly Dudas, the first-ever co-chairwomen of Mayfest, the 80-person student group that runs Dillo Day. When the two seniors took the helm a year ago, they envisioned an inclusive program.

“It’s really special because it’s everyone’s day,” Dudas says. “We’re working on one giant event that brings the entire campus together.”

They’ve poured their passion into what they call the best day of the year. 


In addition to a diverse lineup of artists, wellness is a top priority. All Mayfest staff have been trained in bystander intervention for situations related to sexual harassment and excessive drinking.

Dillo Day begins at 10:30 a.m. Saturday, June 1, on Northwestern’s lakefront athletic fields. The festival is open to the Northwestern community, as well as friends and neighbors. Find details online for registration, wristband costs and distribution.

Here are some other things to know about the annual spring music festival that sends students into finals week.

1. Numbers

Twelve acts will play on two stages for nearly 12 hours in front of a crowd estimated at more than 10,000 students and guests.

2. Main Stage

Headliner A$AP Ferg will be joined on the Main Stage schedule by Anna Lunoe, pop artist Daya, Hippo Campus and R&B singer Teyana Taylor of Kanye West’s G.O.O.D. Music label.

3. Second Stage

For Members Only, Northwestern's Black Student Alliance, partnered with Mayfest this year to book the Second Stage. Drag queen Monique Heart is the nighttime headliner who will anchor a lineup that includes Bay Area hip-hop artist Caleborate, Dfree Da Vinci, Amindi and KOTA The Friend.

4. Students battle

Mayfest’s Battle of the Bands and Battle of the DJs determine the two student acts who will share the Dillo Day spotlight with the 10 internationally-known artists. Like Grammy nominee TOKiMONSTA, who played Dillo Day 2018, junior Caroline Hughes, aka Luminosity, is a female DJ in an industry still dominated by men. F I Z Z will bring pop funk vibes as the Main Stage opener.

5. Big names

Kendrick Lamar, Smash Mouth, Chance the Rapper, 2 Chainz and MGMT are among the bigger names to play the festival by the lake in recent years.


6. History

For almost a century, Northwestern students would gather around the maypole for traditional springtime festivities. But by the 1970s, Dillo Day began to take shape amidst the counterculture revolution. While the exact origins are unclear, the popular take is that two native Texans created a low-budget campus music fest and named it Armadillo Day after an Austin, Texas concert venue and the Lone Star state animal.

7. Dillo grounds

Dotting the Lakefill alongside the two stages will be a Ferris wheel, a beer garden, live art with Chicago artist AfroKilla, a student art exhibit, food trucks, a video game truck, a Polaroid wall and a “chill” tent with hammocks, tapestries, phone chargers and pillows.

8. Campus effort

Hundreds of Northwestern staff work on or contribute to Dillo Day to make sure everything goes as planned. Several departments within Student Affairs engage throughout the year and during the event itself. Staff roam the Lakefill and neighborhoods adjacent to campus to deliver food, scan entry wristbands and serve as information guides throughout the day. Other Northwestern partners includes Northwestern Police, Facilities, Risk Management, Kellogg, Neighborhood and Community Relations, Athletics, SustainNU and the Office of the President.

9. Dillo safety

The Department of Safety and Security and Northwestern Police have developed an event plan by listening to the concerns of Evanston residents, students, organizers and University partners. Officers will conduct joint patrols with Evanston Police in neighborhoods adjacent to campus. In all, there will be more than 100 public safety professionals, security staff and police officers working Dillo Day. Offsite, the Emergency Operations Center will be fully functional, including weather tracking.

10. Countdown

After Dillo Day, there are 14 days left until spring exams end!

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