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Mike Creger, Forum News Service, Published July 09 2013

Fans of all ages flock to Duluth for all things Dylan

DULUTH, Minn. - There was no way employees of Zimmy’s Restaurant in Hibbing were going to miss Tuesday night’s Bob Dylan performance.

“I have to be able to say I’ve seen him,” said Erynne Johnson in the early evening before Dylan appeared on the Bayfront Festival Park stage.

Johnson was with three other current or former employees of the restaurant and bar named after the hometown singer, known in his Hibbing days as Bobby Zimmerman.

“It’s going to be awesome to see the legend in the flesh,” Johnson said. She said it will add to her store of knowledge that she shares with customers at the restaurant filled with Dylan memorabilia.

The T-shirts her crew wore got the attention of attentive Dylan fans, many who flocked to the restaurant Monday night while visiting the area for the concert.

Zimmy’s owner Linda Stroback-Hocking said the buzz around Hibbing has been exciting. She said at least a dozen people she knew were coming to the show.

“I would be in big trouble if I didn’t come to this show,” Stroback-Hocking said.

The sight of Stroback-Hocking with a bunch of 25-year-olds wasn’t an uncommon one. Younger people said they grew to appreciate Dylan through their parents. Older fans of Dylan said their children turned them on to the other acts for the night, My Morning Jacket and Wilco. Richard Thompson opened the show, which began at 5:30 p.m. Dylan appeared on stage just after 9:30 as the sun set.

Jack Nikko of Proctor is 18 and said he’s been getting into Dylan for the past year or so.

“I am pumped,” he said, adding that the rest of the lineup intrigued him as well.

J.R. Blackwell, 27, had more pressing needs than seeing Dylan or the other acts. A buddy of his couldn’t work his security shift for Scheer Events, so he stepped in, guarding a perimeter fence. He also learned to appreciate Dylan from his parents.

“I’m broke right now, so here I get paid to see Bob Dylan,” Blackwell said.

Cool break

Just a few sprinkles met fans during the My Morning Jacket and Wilco sets that led up to Dylan.

Jim James of My Morning Jacket put things in perspective for anyone complaining about a bit of rain and a coolish temperature in the park.

“It’s beautiful here,” he said, reminding the audience that the Americanarama tour began in the South in late June before gradually heading above the Mason-Dixon line.

“It’s been so muggy everywhere,” James said.

The weather was of no concern for Bob Swanson’s crew aboard the Strategy, a Chris-Craft cabin cruiser moored to the boardwalk outside the Great Lakes Aquarium.

“It’s perfect,” Dawn Fitzgerald said. The Duluth native was up from Florida for the show. “I came here for the weather,” she said with a mock laugh.

Dozens of boats bobbed closely together on the bay for the concert: kayaks, canoes, paddleboards, pontoons, speed boats, sail boats, fishing boats, even a miniature houseboat.

The chairs-only zone in front of the stage filled up as Wilco took the stage. The lawn chair sitters filled the rest of the Bayfront bowl and sprinkles came and formed a rainbow over Duluth Harbor.

Wilco frontman Jeff Tweedy had fun early in his band’s set, showing the audience the key to the city it received from Mayor Don Ness at its 2010 show in Duluth. It was stuck to a speaker on the stage.

“It’s good to be home,” Tweedy said. The band is from Chicago. He smiled and hinted that the key honor had gone to his head. “Now go make us a sandwich.”

The real hometown boy followed.

Zimmy’s in Hibbing wasn’t the only Dylan-related enterprise that got a boost from fans flocking to the concert.

John Bushey, the longtime host of KUMD’s “Highway 61 Revisited” radio program, said the owner of Dylan’s home in Duluth isn’t in town, but so many people were dropping by Monday that he went over to offer tours and some insight. Dylan lived in the home on Third Avenue until he was 6, when the Zimmerman family moved to Hibbing.

Bushey said people from across the world were in town for all things Dylan this week.

Dan Russell, executive director of the Duluth Entertainment Convention Center, said more than 7,000 people attended the show. Russell said he worried all week about how the weather would turn out, but when Dylan took the stage it was perfect.

“He sounds great,” he said. “It’s a historic night. It’s a Duluth night.”