Philfest celebrates life, loves of former NU student

Kathryn Monroe

Phil Semmer loved music and Frisbee.

And although he can no longer enjoy these activities, his family and friends are inviting Northwestern students to join in to help celebrate Semmer’s memory.

Today’s Philfest will remember the life of Semmer, an NU student who was killed in a car accident last summer while studying abroad in Australia. His friends decided to put on an event that would celebrate his life through a fun, free day of music, Frisbee and environmental awareness.

Philfest, which kicks off at 3 p.m. on Norris University Center’s East Lawn, will feature fraternity tailgates as well as booths with hemp jewelry and face painting. Several bands will play throughout the day, including headliner Merl Saunders with his Funky Friends. Semmer’s mom will be speak before Saunders at 8 p.m. An Ultimate Frisbee tournament will begin Saturday morning at Long Field.

Saunders a keyboard player from California who has played with Jerry Garcia and other members of the Grateful Dead, will play Friday night.

NU bands C-DO, Tippler Contingent and Sweet Sweet Candy, will also play, along with Rebecca’s Statue and Cornmeal from Chicago.

The idea for the event came from Semmer’s friends, and the event will be co-sponsored by Students for Environmental and Ecological Development. For the past two years, SEED has sponsored Earthfest, an event that tries to raise campus awareness on environmental issues.

This year’s event combines Earthfest with Philfest because the two groups “wanted a spring concert, had similar objectives and made a perfect match,” said Jij de Jesus, a Weinberg senior and Semmer’s friend.

Genevieve 0Maricle, SEED president and Weinberg junior, said she was glad the two groups could work together to honor Phil, while focusing on the environmental issues that were important in Phil’s life.

“It’s an awesome way of keeping his memory alive,” Maricle said.

Philfest will be free and open to the public. But if they wish, visitors can donate funds to benefit a memorial internship in Phil’s name at the Rocky Mountain Institute, an environmental think-tank in Colorado where Phil hoped to work after graduation.

De Jesus said he had no idea Philfest would be this big in scale, and hopes everyone will “come celebrate Phil with us.”

SEED will focus on informing students about global warming during the day’s events. Booths will be set up to provide students with information on getting involved or simply enjoying the outdoors.

The group also will be promoting a letter-writing campaign protesting recent environmental decisions by President Bush and his administration, Maricle said.

“Bush backed off on a lot of campaign promises by not addressing environmental issues,” Maricle said. “The letters are to say that it’s an important issue, we do care, and don’t ignore it.”