Kohoutek, Pitzer College’s annual music festival, now in its 44th year, will run for only one day this year rather than the usual full weekend of performances. This change is due to significant funding cuts from the Pitzer Events Board, which Elijah Pantoja PZ’18, the board’s chair, attributed to both ideological and practical concerns.
The events board gave the festival $12,500 this year — less than half what it has historically received.
Pantoja said Kohoutek’s budget was cut for a number of reasons, including displeasure with vendors last year who sold “blue lives matter” paraphernalia and dream catchers perceived to be culturally appropriative, lack of diversity in the lineup, and an outsized budget for the number of attendees.
“After auditing the club minutes, the events board found that the festival’s massive budget was unsubstantiated,” Pantoja wrote in an email to TSL. “When working with over $30,000, it is easy to become reckless with money and not realize the value of a budget. This was determined to be the case with Kohoutek.”
Alaina Orr PZ ’18, a Kohoutek organizer, Identity Board member, and president of the Mixed Identity Exchange, is an advocate for the changes, which she claimed also helped fund other identity-based groups.
“The Pitzer Senate is realizing that affinity groups need more spaces and recognition on campus. The way I see it, this was a redistribution of funds,” she said. “It’s been really important for my group [MIX] to have these funds, and it’s allowed Identity Board to thrive and put on some really cool events. I think a tighter budget with Kohoutek has really made us focus on quality over quantity with artists, and I’m really excited for this year’s festival.”
Other Kohoutek organizers were less supportive of the cuts.
“It’s not ideal and people’s Kohoutek experience will certainly be diluted, but I understand the reasoning behind it,” organizer Samuel Horowitz PZ ’20 said. “It’s a really expensive festival to run.”
“I would love to see Kohoutek restored to its two-day glory,” said Austin Zimmerman PZ ’18, president of the Kohoutek organizing club. “People get cynical about how money gets spent, but this is the most professional music event that happens at the 5Cs. Kohoutek has happened for the past 40-plus years, and it has never been perfect and should continue to change with the times, but defunding us isn’t the right solution.”
Zimmerman also said that Kohoutek organizers have worked to remedy the issues it has faced in the past.
“[It] hasn’t been the most inclusive place historically, but we are aware of these issues and have been working hard to fix them,” he said. “This year, we cut ties with the problematic vendors from last year’s festival and we have been working with people form Identity Board to try and come up with a more diverse lineup.”
Zimmerman expressed frustration with the process.
“There was no indication … that we should prepare for such a dramatic change or for what areas they thought we were being ‘reckless’ with our budget,” he wrote in an email to TSL.
Orr is hopeful about the future of the festival. She said she has been recruiting people of color to help organize, and is excited about the energy the younger crowd has brought to the event.
“This is definitely starting a new chapter of Kohoutek,” she said. “There are first-years in the club that are super excited about the festival — they have all these ideas and visions for future years and they want to increase student involvement.”
The Kohoutek budget cut comes amidst a series of efforts to make Pitzer’s historically most well-funded clubs more inclusive. Last year, Reggae Fest — which had been taking place for 15 years — was canceled. Additionally, Pitzer Outdoor Adventure Club has undergone restructuring in the past two years in an attempt to make the club more open to marginalized groups.
Kohoutek will take place at the McConnell Dining Hall April 21.