A long-running Iron Range celebration of native son Bob Dylan has been canceled after the forced closure of the restaurant that hosted the annual event.
The “Dylan Days” festival in Hibbing, Minn., drew about 100 people from around the world this year for a singer-songwriter contest, an art show and a bus tour of the town where Dylan grew up.
A delinquent tax bill forced the owner’s of Zimmy’s Bar and Restaurant to shut down in March, robbing the festival of its home base, said one of the event’s organizers.
“It’s just time for us to say, ‘Yep, we’re going to take this break,’ ” said Joe Keyes, a principal organizer behind the 24-year-old festival.
Zimmy’s owners Linda and Bob Hocking could not be reached Monday for comment; Linda Hocking was considered the driving force behind the event, said Keyes.
Dylan Days may yet survive if a new group of supporters can round up financing and an appropriate venue, said Keyes. For now, the group has transferred its remaining funds to the Hibbing Arts Council and steered supporters to the Duluth Dylan festival, typically held a day or two before the one in Hibbing.
“It remains the hope of the outgoing committee that new volunteers will step forward to continue Dylan Days programming in the city of Hibbing in honor of the town’s most famous son, and the reason for thousands of tourist stops in Hibbing every year,” read a statement posted Friday on the Dylan Days website.
The origins of the Hibbing festival go back to an impromptu 1991 birthday celebration for Dylan at Zimmy’s, according to the website. Dylan didn’t attend, and never has appeared at the festival held in his honor. Zimmy’s, named for Dylan’s family name of Zimmerman, became over the years an unofficial Dylan museum, which a writer in the Hibbing newspaper called “the Vatican of the church of Dylanology.”
The festival grew over the years to include the singer-songwriter contest (first place was some cash and a guitar), art and literary contests, and the bus tour.
“It’s been our joy to meet all of these visitors who come for Dylan Days,” said Keyes. He recalled an Israeli man who drove to the Iron Range one year from New York, where he had been attending a conference. “He said, ‘I cannot come this far and not be here in Hibbing.’ He didn’t realize how long the drive was,” said Keyes.
The tax problems earlier this year cost Zimmy’s its liquor license. It lasted a few more weeks before it closed. A social-media fundraiser over the summer fell well short of the $200,000 the Hockings said they needed to pay off their mortgage and reopen.
“Losing Zimmy’s, at least for our organization, was the mortal wound,” said Aaron Brown, who helped organize the festival. The host of the Great Northern Radio Show, Brown said the singer-songwriter contest will move to the Duluth festival for next year. He’s hopeful someone will eventually restart the Hibbing festival.
“I think there’s a lot of demand yet,” he said. “There’s a lot of people who want to come to Hibbing and experience the Dylan experience. He wasn’t just here for a couple of years. He really develops himself in this place. It’s a viable story.”