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Surf Ballroom
Surf Ballroom Feb 1988.JPG
The Surf as it looked in February 1988
Surf Ballroom is located in Iowa
Surf Ballroom
Location Clear Lake, Iowa
Coordinates 43°8′24″N 93°23′22″W / 43.14000°N 93.38944°W / 43.14000; -93.38944
Surf_Ballroom Latitude and Longitude:

43°8′24″N 93°23′22″W / 43.14000°N 93.38944°W / 43.14000; -93.38944
NRHP reference  No. 10000261, 100006243
Significant dates
Added to NRHPSeptember 6, 2011 [1]
Designated NHLJanuary 13, 2021 [2]
Designated HRRLJanuary 27, 2009

The Surf Ballroom (also called the Surf) is a Historic Rock and Roll Landmark at 460 North Shore Drive, Clear Lake, Iowa, United States. The Surf is closely associated with the event known colloquially as " The Day the Music Died" – early rock and roll stars Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens, and J. P. "The Big Bopper" Richardson gave their last performances at the Surf on February 2, 1959, as part of the "Winter Dance Party Tour".

On September 6, 2011, The Surf Ballroom was added to the National Register of Historic Places. [1] In 2021, it was named a National Historic Landmark. [2]

Name and history

The original Surf Ballroom opened on April 17, 1933. [3] It was named that because the original owners wanted patrons to feel like they were at a surf beach club. Murals were painted on the club walls depicting ocean waves, boats on the water, and palm trees. The furniture is bamboo and rattan, giving a South Sea Islands ambiance. Several fake palm trees rise on each side of the stage. Clouds are painted on the ceiling to give a feeling of dancing outdoors by the ocean. [4]

It burned down on April 20, 1947, at an estimated loss of $250,000. [5] On July 1, 1948, it reopened, [6] having been rebuilt across the street from its original location. [7] It still hosts numerous events year round and has a seating capacity of 2,100 and a 6,300-square-foot (590 m2) dance floor. [8] The facility includes a museum of music memorabilia, a Wall of Fame including many of the many famous artists who performed at the venue, and a souvenir shop.

The Surf Ballroom is currently owned by the Snyder family of Clear Lake and is open to the public daily. The exterior of the ballroom has changed very little since the 1950s. Backstage, in an area known as "The Green Room," acts that have performed on the ballroom's historic stage, such as Little River Band, Loverboy, The Righteous Brothers, The Temptations, The Beach Boys, Waylon Jennings (A former band member and bass player of Buddy Holly's band, the Crickets.) and Bobby Rydell have signed their names on the whitewashed walls, and photos of them have been placed on a wall alongside those of early rock-and-roll pioneers.

In 1998, the Surf Ballroom was inducted into the Iowa Rock 'n' Roll Hall of Fame in the Ballroom category. The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum designated the Surf Ballroom a historical landmark on January 27, 2009. The ceremony giving landmark status to the site kicked off a week-long celebration of the 50th anniversary of the February 2, 1959, "Winter Dance Party" concert and the tragic incident of February 3, 1959. [9]

The Day the Music Died

Holly, Valens, and Richardson left The Surf immediately after the show, going to the nearby Mason City airport and chartering a small plane to take them to Fargo, North Dakota, to prepare for their next show at the Moorhead Armory in Moorhead, Minnesota. [10] The plane took off at 12:55 AM Central Time on Tuesday, February 3, 1959. Shortly after takeoff, the plane crashed, killing everyone aboard.

A concrete monument was erected outside The Surf, and the ballroom is adorned with large pictures of the three musicians. In his honor, a street flanking the facility's east property line is named Buddy Holly Place.

Winter Dance Party tribute event

Each February since 1979, the Surf Ballroom has hosted a "Winter Dance Party" tribute show to honor the lives and legacies of the three stars. [11]

Surf Ballroom in 2015
Surf Ballroom in 2015


  1. ^ a b Weekly List Of Actions Taken On Properties: 9/06/11 through 9/09/11
  2. ^ a b "National Register of Historic Places Program: Weekly List". National Park Service. January 29, 2021. Retrieved January 29, 2021.
  3. ^ "Opening Night Dance: Easter Monday April 17th," Mason City (IA) Globe-Gazette, April 11, 1933. Many sources incorrectly give its opening as 1934.
  4. ^ "Surf History - Surf Ballroom". Retrieved November 14, 2019.
  5. ^ "Dance Hall at Clear Lake, Iowa Burns," Winona (MN) Republican-Herald, April 21, 1947
  6. ^ "Announcing the New Surf Ballroom," Mason City (IA) Globe-Gazette, June 30, 1948
  7. ^ "Surf Ballroom & Museum". Retrieved February 3, 2011.
  8. ^ "Surf History". Archived from the original on January 31, 2011. Retrieved February 3, 2011.
  9. ^ "Surf Ballroom Recognized", Mason City (IA) Globe Gazette, Peggy Senzarino, Thursday, January 29, 2009
  10. ^ Minneapolis Star/Tribune, January 25, 2009.
  11. ^ "Winter Dance Party". Retrieved February 3, 2011.

External links