Backstage at Dillo Day

    It will all start with a 4:30 a.m. wake up call on Saturday. The crew will assemble to assign tasks, go over the schedule, set up, and deal with artists and hired production companies. The 60 or so students on Mayfest are concerned about much more than where to pregame before Regina Spektor. They spend the weekend of Dillo Day worrying about tents, University police and artist transportation.

    “We don’t get a lot of sleep… [but] we see the sunrise on the Lakefill. It’s really lovely,” joked one of Mayfest’s executive producers, Communication junior Barry McCardel. His Dillo Day starts as early as the Thursday beforehand, with a large portion of the setup happening on Friday and early Saturday morning. His production crew handles everything from “the stage to security to vehicles,” he said.

    Mayfest divides into various groups to work on special events in tents along the Lakefill, deal with the artists, work backstage during performances or run errands, according to crew chief Jon Glass, a Weinberg sophomore. They keep busy until well into Sunday morning. “By 11:30 [p.m.] or so, after all the performances are done, I’ll be out there with the rest of the crew to take down the stage that night,” Glass said.

    Because time is such a factor, McCardel’s co-producer, Communication senior Aldi Kaza, said, “It can seem like it just goes by and you’re like ‘Oh, wait a minute, Dillo Day just happened.’”

    McCardel added, “We remember our whole day, it just goes by quickly, in contrast to most other students.”

    Among other things, the production team takes care of artist hospitality. Their job is “making sure [artists] have what they want to be comfortable and to be able to perform,” Kaza explained.

    One curve ball was a request for an Enya greatest hits CD, but that is certainly not the most common. “We frequently get requests for underwear, which I think is a curious thing. Almost like, I don’t know why you wouldn’t be able to buy your own underwear.”

    The production team basically picks up where the concerts committee leaves off, McCardel said. “It’s our job to make sure [the artists] are there, ready to perform and that we’re ready for them to perform, and that everything is safe, sound and going to be fun on the day of.”

    The Mayfest crew does not have the same Dillo Day experience as most students. Some, like Kaza, become inspired to help with the events after they go through a “normal” Dillo Day. “My freshman year, being so naïve, I was like ‘wow this is one of the craziest things I’ve ever been a part of,’” he said. Kaza joined A&O Productions his sophomore year and Mayfest junior year.

    Throughout May, A&O Productions and Mayfest, along with other groups, put on several other shows (think Bo Burnham, A&O Ball, One Voice and Philfest). Many of the Dillo Day crew members work on multiple shows. For Kaza, this will be the fifth consecutive weekend he has helped produce a show, but Dillo Day holds a special place in his heart. “This is the big culmination. I’m incredibly excited.”

    Weinberg senior Daniel Jagla, who worked on Mayfest for two years, was equally passionate about the experience, but is ready to take a break. He has not experienced Dillo Day as a student since his freshman year, which was held in Patten Gym due to rain. He decided to step back this year.

    “As much as I’m missing it now, it’ll be interesting to see what Dillo Day looks like for a normal student,” Jagla said.

    Glass sees things differently. He joined Mayfest his freshman year and he said he will probably continue to work on it during his next two years at Northwestern.

    “There’s nothing quite like waking up at dawn on Dillo Day and being on a completely empty campus,” he explained. “And then throughout the day, seeing a couple thousand people come out and really enjoy themselves, it’s an awesome experience.”


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