An estimated 12,000 students and guests are expected to gather on the Northwestern University lakefront in Evanston Saturday as the Dillo Day music festival returns for its 50th anniversary after a two-year break forced by the pandemic.
University and public safety officials assured residents during a virtual town hall meeting Tuesday night that they’re taking precautions to ensure safety during the day-long event.
Deputy NU Police Chief Eric Chin said that the school would enforce a vehicle free zone on the lakefront and have private security patrols and bag checks for attendees.
After recent mass shooting events, Chin said, “We’re really concerned about safety” and that his department would have a command center for the day where they’ll be working with city officials and representatives of the school’s student affairs office “to mitigate any issues.”
The university, he said, will also have a private ambulance service on site to attend to any medical incidents and will have sound meters along the perimeter of the lakefront site “to assure that we’re not disturbing our city partners.”
Evanston Fire Chief Paul Polep said the city will also have three ambulances in service Saturday plus two paramedics on bicycles based at Firemen’s Park.
Interim Evanston Police Chief Richard Eddington said the department would have 17 officers patrolling the neighborhood surrounding the event.
In years past neighbors have frequently complained about off-campus parties before and during the Dillo Day activities leading to excessive drinking, public urination and other disruptive behavior.
NU Dean of Students Mona Dugo said her staff “has done a lot of preparation with the off-campus community” and met with students at locations that traditionally have hosted larger gatherings on Dillo Day to talk with them about being good neighbors.
Among other things, she said they’ve encouraged students organizing off-campus parties to install portable toilets in their backyards to avoid having partygoers charged with public urination.
Dugo said the city’s 311 service will be operating on Dillo Day from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. and residents can call that number with any concerns, but for emergency issues should still call 911.
She said 15 student affairs staff members “will be out in mass in the neighborhood” walking and riding in golf carts to address any issues.
A. J. Rosenthal, a student organizer of the event, said it is the nation’s largest student-run music festival — with two stages, food trucks and games and activities for attendees.
The event runs from 11:30 a.m. to 10:15 p.m. with 10 professionals and six student artists performing.
Color coded wrist bands will be used to identify persons attending the event.