Forum News Service
If you ask Bill Pagel, he will say there is no chance that Bob Dylan would stop by his childhood home in Duluth's Central Hillside on his birthday. No way.
"This would be the last place on earth he would be," said Pagel, a Dylan memorabilia collector who has owned the duplex since 2001. "During Dylan Fest?"
A couple dozen fans did show up at the home where Dylan lived until he was 6. They filled Pagel's front yard on Wednesday afternoon in honor of the musician's 76th birthday and were treated to a sheet cake from Mount Royal Market, Dylan-centric conversations with like-minded folks and Dylan tunes by Greg Tiburzi — another former Hibbing resident known to carry a harmonica.
The birthday party was a stop in Australian Susan Laing's six-week American tour of all-things-Dylan. She's already been to New York City, to the Woody Guthrie Center in Tulsa, Okla., and to Maryland to see "Portal," the iron archway sculpture Dylan created.
While in Minnesota, Laing has traveled by bus so she could see the landscape.
"I can see how much this area has formed him," she said.
Laing planned to be in Duluth specifically for the festival. If she was at home, she would also be celebrating his birthday with friends — like she does every year.
Dylan is partly the reason that Katie Ulrich made her way to Pagel's yard. She traveled to Duluth from Oshkosh, Wis., for Dylan Fest last year "on a whim," then ended up moving here. She described Dylan's appeal with words by Dave Matthews Band.
"You quench my heart and you quench my mind," she said, quoting DMB's "Two Step." "His creativity and uniqueness, that's what it does," Ulrich said.
John Bushey, a Dylanophile and longtime host of "Highway 61 Revisited" on KUMD-FM, was still celebrating the artist's 2016 Nobel Prize in literature.
"It was amazing," said Bushey, who has been attending most Dylan Fest events despite serious illness. "We've known he deserved it."
Susan Beasy Latto was also in a Nobel state of mind.
"I got tears in my eyes," she said of reading about the award.
Latto graduated from Hibbing High School with Dylan in 1959. She recalled, when she was younger, reading in Time magazine that he was a genius.
"I thought 'Holy buckets, Time magazine?' It's not like it was just his neighbor or something," she said.
Tiburzi, who grew up in Hibbing like Dylan, said he created a set list that included songs Dylan is currently performing and, of course, "Something There is About You," which includes the phrase "walking the hills of old Duluth."
"I'm a huge fan from way back," he said. "He gave us the license to sing our own songs. After him, songwriting was never the same."
Tiburzi said playing on Dylan's old porch — which he has done for a few birthdays — was a rush.
"It's an honor," he said. "Maybe we'll get him (here) one of these years."