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Dylan fans gather at his old house in Duluth's hillside to pay tribute on his 80th birthday

There were cupcakes, Dylan tunes and promises of martinis among the 90 fans who gathered in the yard and street for the official Duluth Dylan Fest event.

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Bob Dylan fans applaud after St. Louis County Commissioner Frank Jewell read a proclamation naming the next 12 months the Year of Dylan on Monday, May 24, 2021, Dylan’s 80th birthday. The fans were gathered at the musician’s childhood in Duluth’s Hillside for the annual birthday party hosted by Duluth Dylan Fest. (Steve Kuchera / skuchera@duluthnews.com)

Bill Pagel, likely the world's foremost collector of Bob Dylan memorabilia, has one question for the Duluth-born artist who turned 80 years old Monday — and he's sure that it's one that Dylan has never been asked.

"I'd take him to the second floor," Pagel said, standing in the street in front of the 2016 Noble Prize in Literature winner's childhood home at 519 N. Third Ave. E., a duplex Pagel has owned for the past 20 years. "(I'd ask) 'which of these bedrooms, which are exactly the same size, (was yours).'"

Pagel and upward of 90 Dylan friends, fans and pilgrims gathered Monday afternoon in front of the Central Hillside house, some milling in the street. The collector has taken great efforts to restore the home to what it looked like in the early 1940s when the Zimmerman family of four lived there — a project he is also working on in Hibbing with the home Dylan lived in through high school. Greg Tiburzi played Dylan tunes from the remodeled porch, a curated setlist that combined fan-favorites and deeper cuts.

Cupcakes topped with glittery number 80s were passed by key figures in the local Dylan scene: Miriam Hanson, host of the Dylan centric weekly radio show "Highway 61 Revisited" on KUMD-FM 103.3, Zane Bale of Duluth Dylan Fest, host of this event and live music, virtual lectures, word contests running through May 30 in and near Duluth.

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Greg Tiburzi (left) and Eric Rogers perform Bob Dylan’s “It’s All Over Now Baby Blue” on the front porch of the musician’s childhood home Monday, May 24, 2021. (Steve Kuchera / skuchera@duluthnews.com)

County Commissioner Frank Jewell read from a proclamation declaring the next 365 days the " Year of Dylan " in St. Louis County. He apologized for the wordiness of the proclamation genre in general before dipping into a series of whereases. Copies of the official document were rolled, tied with ribbon and free for the taking — alongside sheets offering a step-by-step self-guided tour of Duluth's Dylan landmarks, like the Scenic Highway and the former Nettleton School, where he went to kindergarten.

(Midway through the event a black pickup turned on to Third Avenue East, seemingly noticed the trickiness of easing through the crowd, and slowly backed away.)

"I'm so happy there is such a fabulous turnout for Dylan's 80th birthday," said Bale, a longtime organizer for Duluth Dylan Fest.

"The way we look at it, it's a reunion," said Don Dass, who was a major supporter of getting a cultural pathway named for the musician.

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Bob Dylan fans listen to a speaker at the musician’s Duluth childhood home Monday, May 24, 2021. (Steve Kuchera / skuchera@duluthnews.com)

There was a group singalong of "Happy Birthday," a song Dylan did not write, joked Ed Newman, whose blog Ennyman's Territory is often inspired by thoughts about Dylan.

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Newman, from a point on the porch, told the crowd that a friend had asked him, "You don't always listen to Dylan, do you?" Before he could get to the punchline, the youngest member of the crowd yelled out "Yeah!"

That was Raleigh Dylan Kuschel, 3½, and yes, he's named for the artist. His father, Ryan Kuschel, wanted to name him Robert.

"I got vetoed," he said.

"He wasn't a girl, so we couldn't name him Johanna," said his mother, Brittany Kuschel, a nod to Dylan's "Visions of Johanna."

Paul Metsa, who was in town to record a song at Sacred Heart Music Center for an upcoming edition of "Duluth Does Dylan," came to the party wearing a Zimmy's sweatshirt, a callout to the former Hibbing restaurant and point of pilgrimage that was decorated with Dylan memorabilia.

Metsa once met Dylan, he said, and he greeted him with the fact that he, too, grew up on the Iron Range.

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Asked what he would say if Dylan showed up to this cupcake party at his childhood home, Metsa thought a second.

"I'd love to buy him a martini," he said.

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A box full of cupcakes for Bob Dylan’s 80th birthday sit outside his Duluth childhood home Monday, May 24, 2021. (Steve Kuchera / skuchera@duluthnews.com)

How to celebrate Bob Dylan this week

May 24

1 p.m.: Duluth Dylan Fest: Bob Dylan front porch birthday party with music by Greg Tiburzi, 519 N. Third Ave. E, free

5-6 p.m.: Duluth Dylan Fest: "Highway 61 Revisited" radio show KUMD-FM 103.3

5-8 p.m.: Duluth Dylan Fest: Party with music by Cowboy Angel Blue, Earth Rider Festival Field, Superior. Tickets.

May 25

5 p.m.-5:30: Duluth Dylan Fest: Happy Hour with Heaven's Door Whiskey: A look behind Bob Dylan's whiskey brand and stories, Zoom, free

7 p.m.-7:30 p.m.: Duluth Dylan Fest: Song From the North Country Songwriter Contest Announcement Livestream on Zoom, free

May 26

6-8 p.m.: Duluth Dylan Fest: Greg Tiburzi Sings Dylan, Valentini’s Bistro, free

6:30 p.m.-8: Duluth Dylan Fest: Dylan Fest Poetry Contest Reading Event livestream, Zoom, free

May 27

6:30-8 p.m.: Duluth Dylan Fest: Livestream from 2104 with Luke LeBlanc, free

May 28

6-9 p.m.: Duluth Dylan Fest: Duluth Does Dylan Concert, Earth Rider Festival Field, tickets

May 29

1:30-3 p.m.: Duluth Dylan Fest: John Bushey Memorial Lecture by Dave Engel, author of “Just Like Bob Zimmerman’s Blues: Dylan in Minnesota,” livestream from Teatro Zuccone, free

5-6 p.m.: Duluth Dylan Fest: “Highway 61 Revisited” on KUMD-FM 103.3, free

6-9 p.m.: Duluth Dylan Fest: Bob Dylan Revue Concert, Earth Rider Festival Field, tickets

May 30

2 p.m.: Duluth Dylan Fest: Songs from the North Country Songwriter Contest Showcase featuring Shane Nelson, Earth Rider Festival Field, tickets

5:30-6:30 p.m.: Dylan Fest livestream with Danny Fox, free

Related Topics: MUSICCENTRAL HILLSIDEDULUTH
Christa Lawler is a former reporter for the Duluth News Tribune.
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