After two years of online performances and virtual programming, Northwestern University’s Dillo Day will return to campus on May 21 — just in time to celebrate its 50th year. The largest, entirely student-run music festival in the country, Dillo Day welcomes 12,000 Northwestern and Evanston community members to the Northwestern lakefront each May.
To say coming together in person again is exciting may be an understatement for graduating seniors Maryam Ikuforiji and Gina Waweru, co-chairs of Mayfest Productions, which produces Dillo Day. As fourth-year students, Ikuforiji and Waweru belong to the only class that has experienced Dillo Day in person, which means the stakes are high to recreate and reimagine the experience for their final year and the entire community.
“There’s a learning curve for planning an in-person event,” Ikuforiji said. “There’s very few people on our team — maybe 20 of 100 — who’ve seen Dillo [in person].”
Beginning in 1972, 2022 marks 50 years since Dillo Day’s inception. The co-chairs reflected on how much the event has changed over the years, and since they took on leadership roles within the organization. Now, said Ikuforiji, there are more voices in the room and a new precedent that diverse voices are “here to stay.”
“We talked in the fall to the guy who put on the first Dillo,” Waweru said. “It was exciting to hear how Dillo has transformed from this small concert with a couple people hanging out on the Lakefill to this huge half-a-million-dollar production.”
In uniting campus community with music, Mayfest Productions emphasizes diversity, inclusion and accessibility in its spaces and has partnered with organizations across campus to ensure students stay safe. This year, it has held intentional conversations around security presence, wellness and student safety to create “what Dillo can look like,” according to Waweru.
The Smart Dillo campaign — a collaboration between Health Promotion and Wellness (HPaW), the Center for Awareness Response & Education (CARE) and other campus partners — runs in the weeks leading up to the year-end festival as a reminder to attendees of their role and responsibility to create a safe community and enjoyable experience for everyone. The campaign’s messages remind students about harm reduction measures they can take around substance use, safer sex and consent, and how to be respectful in and around the surrounding neighborhoods.
“Dillo Day is a tradition that has been enjoyed by generations of students, and we are thrilled to see it return to the Lakefill this weekend," said Mona Dugo, dean of students and assistant vice president of wellness. “We encourage all festivalgoers to make healthy choices and look out for one another. Dillo is a celebration of our community, so we amplify our current resources like amnesty through responsible action, so that everyone can have a memorable experience.”
Dugo also emphasized that students and guests are encouraged to test for COVID-19 prior to the event and can do so from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on weekdays at Northwestern testing sites on the Evanston or Chicago campus.
This year’s theme for Dillo is “Return of the Rodeo,” and music will start on Northwestern’s Lakefill at 12:30 p.m. on May 21. The immersive Dillo Village will feature food trucks, carnival games, caricatures and glow tattoo artists, free pizza and giveaways, a beer garden and more. Gates open at 11:30 a.m.
Mayfest recently announced that Dominic Fike (from HBO show “Euphoria”) will perform as the festival’s mainstage headliner, following a set of popular artists including daytime headliner and indie pop singer Remi Wolf, singer-songwriter Tinashe, rapper Cochise, electronic duo Vicetone and surprise final artist Sean Kingston.
“This lineup is full of surprises,” Ikuforiji said. “It’s something the campus won’t expect… but in the best way possible.”
The second stage, organized by For Members Only (FMO), Northwestern’s Black Student Union, will feature up-and-coming Black artists, including multiple student acts. Rapper Taylor Bennett will headline the second stage, joined by R&B artist Jordan Hawkins and rappers Kari Faux and Scorey. Samad Acklin, a third-year student and the diversity and inclusion chair of Mayfest, said FMO hopes to bring the whole campus together through the celebration of Black artists.
“Black people created a lot of music from country to blues, to rock, to hip hop and R&B,” Acklin said. “By having the second stage, Mayfest is honoring and centering Black artists who have created the music we listen to today.”
Every Northwestern undergraduate student is guaranteed a free Dillo wristband. Undergraduate students and their guests, graduate students, alumni, faculty, staff and Evanston residents over the age of 18 can reserve wristbands through the Norris Box Office website. Wristbands can be picked up at the Norris University Center.