TAMPA — The birthday card unfurled — a long white banner — reaches 80 feet.
People from Sweden, Wisconsin, Minnesota and Florida signed their names, drew artwork, wrote poems and scrawled lyrics wishing legendary musician Bob Dylan a happy birthday.
Joan Herman, 64, a retiree from the finance industry, got the wild idea to make her rock idol a card celebrating his birthday two years ago — he was then turning 68 — as she traveled to his hometown, Hibbing, Minn., with her husband.
The town holds a festival annually called Dylan Days, celebrating the birth of the songwriter on the weekend nearest his May 24 birth date.
Dylan is a huge part of Herman's life, too. She converted her husband, Don, to a fan by refusing to listen to any other artist in the car. When she inline skates near her Bayshore Boulevard home, she listens only to Dylan.
It all started with Blowin' in the Wind for the Marble, Minn., native. "It was a protest song," she said. "I'm all for peace and against war. I think his lyrics are moving."
Herman said she called a paper mill on the way to Dylan Days in 2008 and requested a roll of paper to make a card.
At the festival, people reveled in signing a banner Bob Dylan might one day see.
Women wrote laments about why Dylan never calls, fans wrote poems and even children wished him a happy birthday.
The banner is full now, and Herman said she's started a new one — never sure if Dylan will ever see it.
She and Don, 80, have tried to send it through his management team. And they contacted the event manager at the University of South Florida Sun Dome, where Dylan is scheduled to perform Thursday. All have said it won't happen. And to a degree, the couple understands.
"He's a recluse," Don Herman said, "a very private person."
Joan Herman thinks the happiness the banner has brought for the people who signed it could someday spill over to the man her husband dubbed "music idol of the universe".
"I really think this will bring him joy," she beamed.
Robbyn Mitchell can be reached at (813) 226-3373 or email@example.com.