On Bob Dylan Day in Minnesota, Hibbing celebrates its Nobel laureate
HIBBING — A few years back, Joan Herman wanted to wish Bob Dylan a happy 67th birthday — but not with a simple birthday card.
Herman, a Florida resident originally from the Iron Range community of Marble, bought a roll of paper that she began bringing around the world for people to sign for Dylan. Nearly a decade later, she has 180 feet of paper covered in signatures, drawings and well-wishes for the iconic singer-songwriter who was born in Duluth and raised in Hibbing.
"People from all of the world — China, Norway, Paris, Ecuador — people from all over the world have signed this card," she said.
While in New York City last year to see Dylan in concert, she walked out of her hotel and saw Dylan walking on the sidewalk.
"I went right up to him and said, 'I know you.' He looked at me and I said, 'I'm from Marble' and he said, 'Minnesota?' So that's what started the conversation," she said.
She told him about the massive number of well wishes she had collected for him, and he asked her to send photos of it, which she did.
"We had this lovely conversation about being Rangers," she said.
Herman was among the few hundred Dylan fans who gathered at Hibbing High School on Saturday afternoon to celebrate Dylan's career on the day he was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature, with Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton on hand to declare Dec. 10 as Bob Dylan Day in Minnesota.
The Nobel award ceremony was Saturday in Stockholm, though Dylan had said last month that he would miss the event "due to pre-existing commitments."
A community group called the Hibbing Dylan Project organized events on Saturday in Hibbing to celebrate the Northland native. The group formed a few months ago and is focusing on providing educational programs and opportunities in honor of Dylan. About 280 people attended a Nobel Prize party on Saturday evening at the historic Androy Hotel in Hibbing, hosted by the Hibbing Dylan Project. The party included two stages for musicians and poetry readings.
"The whole day has been one incredible highlight," said retired Hibbing teacher Craig Hattam, the brainchild behind the Hibbing Dylan Project.
Hattam noted that the day's festivities allowed him to meet people who organize Dylan events in Duluth, and he said he hopes they can work together going forward.
At the afternoon ceremony at Hibbing High School, Dayton donned a Hibbing Dylan Project T-shirt to applause from the audience. Dylan was born Robert Zimmerman in Duluth and was raised in Hibbing, graduating from Hibbing High School in 1959. A sign outside the high school congratulated the famous graduate for his Nobel Prize, and a display inside recounted moments from Dylan's life in Hibbing with black and white photos, a yearbook, a guitar and records.
Dayton made the Bob Dylan Day proclamation from the same high school auditorium stage where Dylan performed as a high school student, although Dayton noted that there are differing stories on how those performances went. After a brief stint at the University of Minnesota, Dylan headed to New York City to pursue his dream, Dayton said. However, he said Dylan is still a Minnesotan.
"No matter where he roams, he was and he still is a son of Hibbing," Dayton said. "You look at his character and the core of his being, it comes from the Iron Range. His rugged individualism, his willingness to stand up and speak out — or in his case, sing out — what he believes, his strength to remain true to himself despite the opinions of others and the ability to use his talents to raise himself to the highest level — those are qualities of Iron Rangers."
Nearby at the Hibbing Memorial Arena, the Hibbing boys hockey team was taking on Roseau on Saturday, and Dylan's Nobel Prize win wasn't foremost in people's minds. Some said they were a fan of his music, while others didn't think much of the singer-songwriter who — publically, at least — has seemed to keep his Northland roots at arm's length.
"Can you blame him?" Hibbing resident Dean Davich said, explaining that he heard Dylan's classmates laughed at him when he took to the stage to perform in high school.
Hibbing resident Dan Doherty said he's a fan of Dylan's music and it's "cool" that Dylan is receiving the Nobel Prize, even though the musician seems standoffish about his hometown.
"They were trying to honor him here and it's like, 'Why? He doesn't even acknowledge it,' " Doherty said.
Bill Pagel, owner of Dylan's childhood home in Duluth and a collector of Dylan memorabilia, was on hand for Saturday's celebration. He said the honor of the Nobel Prize is well-deserved, and that more Hibbing residents may take notice of Dylan because of the award.
"It's a good day for Minnesota and Hibbing and Duluth. He's getting the recognition that he deserves," Pagel said.