Bob Dylan’s birthplace of Duluth, Minnesota, kicked off its annual Dylan Fest this past weekend with a concert and live music. They’ve got more events going on throughout the week. Then, this Friday, May 23 and Saturday, May 24 (Bob’s birthday), Bob Dylan’s hometown of Hibbing begins its annual Dylan Days event up here on the Iron Range. The two events together bill as the “North Country Dylan Celebration.
My Hibbing Daily Tribune column yesterday revealed some pretty big news. After this upcoming weekend’s event, the other organizing partners and I will step down from the Dylan Days central committee. I’ve been involved with Dylan Days, serving as chair or co-chair, since 2001 when I was the boy editor of the Hibbing Daily Tribune. I’ve coordinated the B.J. Rolfzen Creative Writing Contest, edited the journal “Talkin’ Blues,” and served as public relations and webmaster for the organization.
We now leave the event to the people of Hibbing and the arts community of northern Minnesota, hoping that others may bring new life and new ideas to this annual tradition.
From a marketing standpoint this is all mucked up; I’m burying the lede. We’ve got the biggest Dylan-related event ever scheduled in Hibbing this year, the traveling GRAMMY Museum exhibit of “Daniel Kramer: Photographs of Bob Dylan.” The city of Hibbing and others worked very hard to put this event together, and it runs all summer until Aug. 23. We’ve managed to find a way to continue our biggest traditions: the Friday night singer/songwriter contest, the literary showcase and Saturday morning “Bobby Zimmerman” interpretive bus tour. It will be a great way to go out, but we must go out.
Zimmy’s, Hibbing’s Bob Dylan restaurant, closed this year. It was critical to the way we operated our event. New owners could change the equation, but nothing has materialized yet. Four out of the five Dylan Days organizers are ready to move on to a new phase of their lives, and the fifth — me — has an active young family and then went and started a radio variety show that has taken me further away from Dylan Days planning. Sometimes you don’t fight the forces of the universe: you accept that change is inevitable, necessary and good.
But feelings here are bittersweet, to be sure.
So, come to Hibbing this weekend and take in the last Dylan Days in its current form. We are seeking and will work to assist the next generation of Dylan Days organizers, should they arise. We hope they do. We also hope to find continued use for the remodeled Paulucci Space Theatre, where the Kramer exhibit will be housed. A gallery? A meeting place? A place for art and music to happen? What do you think? Just don’t miss the Kramer exhibit, which will be on display throughout the summer free of charge, thanks to the city of Hibbing.
Duluth’s celebration will continue, and we thank the good people at Dylan Fest for working with us so kindly, collaboratively and effectively over the last few years. Fundamentally, you need more than a few people to sustain an event like this, and Duluth’s growing arts scene has produced great results.
There remains great art, great talent, great stories and music buried under the decaying concrete on the Modern Iron Range. Letting go of this one outlet will help me excavate these artistic ores through my radio show, my writing and the blog you are now reading.
It’s been a terrible year so far for the performing arts on the Range; several live music venues have gone down, and the public’s attention remains focused on distant mining projects and passing outrages. This is a fight for the future of the Iron Range! The battle is not over; the battle is changing, and so we must change, too.