The Surf Ballroom

99 Counties | FIND Iowa
Jul 21, 2024 | 03:09

How can music bring people together?

The Surf Ballroom is a famous and historic music and dance hall. It's a place to go have fun with friends and hear all kinds of music. It is also famous for a much sadder tale.


Abby Brown:

The eyes the world were on this Ballroom in Iowa when tragedy struck in 1959.

The Surf Ballroom is in Clear Lake, Iowa, a small town that made big news when nationally known rock and roll stars Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens, and "The Big Bopper" Richardson all died in a plane crash nearby, right after performing here to an enthusiastic crowd. There's a memorial to the performers on site and every year a concert is held to remember the musicians and their music.

The Surf Ballroom was the place for young Iowans to hang out and dance back in the 30s, 40s, and 50s. Maybe your grandparents remember The Surf, or maybe they even met each other here. Besides school and church, in a rural area like this, there weren't a lot of ways to meet new people. The Surf Ballroom was a place to hang out with friends and family, even during hard times like World War II.

There were lots of famous bands who played here and still do now! Local bands take the stage these days. In the early years, bands didn't play in big stadiums with laser light shows and huge video screens, they played in gymnasiums and ballrooms like The Surf, and the crowds loved it!

What music performer do you love? Harry Styles? Taylor Swift? Imagine getting to see them up close and in person on a stage like this. That's what people experienced when they came to The Surf Ballroom decades ago to see the famous stars of the time. It was a big deal.

The Surf Ballroom is one of the last remaining ballrooms in the Midwest. It's on the National Register of Historic Places and a National Historic Landmark; a real-life symbol of our rich music history here in Iowa. Anyone can visit and explore the ballroom, along with a museum of photos and memorabilia.

You can almost hear the music still playing while people dance the night away. Every county in Iowa has a musical story to tell. It's been a pleasure stepping back in time here in Cerro Gordo County.