Spring 2012

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Dillo Day in the late 1970s. Photo by Tod H. Francis (WCAS81, KSM83)/Courtesy of University Archives

Then: Who Really Started Dillo Day?

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Were you at Northwestern for the first Dillo Day? Share your memories of the spring celebration at letters@northwestern.edu.
Northwestern's springtime celebration has disputed origins.

In May 1973, a group of long-haired self-described hippies gathered at the Evanston campus lakeside to launch what would become one of Northwestern’s most beloved traditions: Dillo Day.

At least that’s how Donald Stout (WCAS73), a co-founder of the annual spring musical festival, remembers it. The first celebration, Stout says, was a low-budget affair involving local bands, face-painting and participants sporting outrageous costumes. Stout and his friend George Krause (WCAS73) — both native Texans — named the event “Armadillo Day,” after a concert venue in Austin, Texas, and in honor of the Lone Star state animal.

Richard Gochnauer (McC72) recalls the original springtime celebration differently. Gochnauer, who was president of the Interfraternity Council at the time, said he and a few friends pooled excess funds from the IFC and Panhellenic Council to host an illicit all-school party in May 1971. The event, Gochnauer wrote in his account for University Archives, included five bands and kegs of beer — which were banned in then-dry Evanston.

Students have hosted springtime festivals since at least the 1890s — long before the disputed origins of Dillo Day. The annual “May Queen” crowning was held from the early 1900s through 1969, the last year that the all-female May Court was named.