Surf’s Up!


When Chris was “between jobs” we tried to take in some of the sights around the area that we had not really seen.  We ate in some new to us restaurants and tried to immerse ourselves in all things Iowa.  One of our first stops was to visit The Surf Ballroom and Museum again.  We have been there for various concerts but had never really been able to visit in the light of day. I would highly recommend this to anyone who happens to find themselves near Clear Lake, Iowa.  It is an absolute fun way to spend a couple of hours if you want to linger awhile.

Today’s post will highlight The Surf building and some of the things you can expect to see when you visit.  A follow up post next week will highlight my absolute favorite part of the place so make sure you come back.

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The Surf Ballroom is a 30,000 square foot building which houses a 3, 600 square foot maple dance floor.  The 1940’s style foyer and lobby remain basically unchanged and features the original coat check. Walking into The Surf is a bit like a step back in time. Come walk with me as we explore a bit more.

Capacity crowds still come to support each act that plays the historic venue.

Capacity crowds still come to support each act that plays the historic venue.

The history is everywhere.

The history is everywhere.

The pineapple "welcome" is repeated in many areas of the building.

The pineapple “welcome” is repeated in many areas of the building.

 

A stroll through the halls is a must.  Every surface is covered with pictures of performers who have played at The Surf and memorabilia that has been left to honor this historical place.

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The original Surf, located across the street, burned in April 1947.  The new building is almost fireproof --built with exterior walls of 4 inch brick bonded to 8 inch tile.

The original Surf, located across the street, burned in April 1947. The new building is almost fireproof –built with exterior walls of 4 inch brick bonded to 8 inch tile. The interior is finished in brick and pecky cypress wood.

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Of course there is always a "story".

Of course there is always a “story”.

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Interesting things to look at EVERYWHERE!

Interesting things to look at EVERYWHERE!  This is a signed Randy Travis guitar.

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Mr. Diamond tries out one of the booths which we determined were built for 1940's bodies and not the super sized bodies of today.

Mr. Diamond tries out one of the booths which we determined were built for 1940’s bodies and not the super sized bodies of today. The 4 and 6 person booths are original and the theme  is a South Seas beach club complete with palm trees and cabana.

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The impressive disco ball!

The impressive disco ball!

Chris comes on stage for his performance….

Chris comes on stage for his performance….

At the back of the ballroom we are reminded of the tragic deaths of Buddy Holly, "The Big Bopper" and Ritchie Valens on February 2, 1959.

At the back of the ballroom we are reminded of the tragic deaths of Buddy Holly, “The Big Bopper” and Ritchie Valens on February 2, 1959. The plane crash also killed the pilot of the plane, Roger Peterson.

The ticket booth from the inside looking out.

The ticket booth from the inside looking out.

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There is so much history here and what a rush it must be for any group to be able to perform here.   The Surf Ballroom and Museum operates as a non-profit 501c3 organization and I must say that there is always something going on at The Surf.  A great job has been done by all to preserve and continue to allow the music to keep playing despite the fact that there have been challenges along the way.

The general public is invited to come share in the history year round. Hours: 8 am to 4 pm Monday through Friday with additional  hours on Saturday from 9 am to 1 pm and Sundays from 1 pm to 4 pm from Memorial Day to Labor Day.  A suggested donation of $5 is encouraged.  Volunteers like Kathy who was there the day we stopped in are always available to assist.

I have posted previously on visiting the crash site and while you are in the area you might want to take a quick side trip there.  You can read about that by clicking here to go to that post in a separate window.  Make sure you come back next week to see my favorite part.

 

 

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Comments

  1. Very interesting how the romance of the beach and surf carries deep into the midwest. When I was an out of state student at Michigan State having just graduated from high school in FL, my new Midwestern friends thought I had it all backwards. Given the chance they would have gone to school in FL.
    What a fabulous venue and how neat it has an historical marker. Truly no one does the music industry like the USA. You will always remember the details of Buddy Holly’s accident.

    • it is such a neat place and the facility is rented out all the time for different things as well as all of the fabulous musical acts that grace the stage. I love all that it represents and that there are people who have come together to ensure it stays around.

  2. I love the Surf! You are right that it truely feels like a step back,in time. My step-brother and sil had their wedding reception there and hubby and I had more fun walking around looking at all the history. I love to try and picture it when it was packed back then!

  3. I did not know a thing about The Surf.. very interesting and I think it would be cool to have a wedding reception there! Or an Anniversary party! Love all the pictures.. tried to find Smokey Robinson 🙂

    • It is such a great place—it really is. I love the history and they have done such a great job of keeping it true to what it was like. That is a bonus.

  4. We’ve seen the outside but never gone inside. There’s a lot we haven’t seen yet in the area and this is at the top of my list.

    • I know!! There are still places I need to go but at least we will be checking The Barrel off the list next week! 🙂

    • It’s so much fun. The concerts are actually great there. If you stand right under the disco ball, we have figured that is where the best sound is at. 🙂 Spenser and I go to at least 10 concerts a year there.

  5. So interesting! Being an East Coast gal, I wasn’t familiar with The Surf Ballroom…so much history there! Can’t wait to read about your favorite part!

  6. Helen Brown says:

    I enjoyed your pictures of the Surf Ballroom and glad you shared them with us.

  7. Did you get to see the room that is backstage with all the signatures on it? It’s SO cool! My mom’s signature is on that wall with all other great people that have performed there over the years. 🙂

  8. Wow what a diverse list of performers, amazing, thanks for sharing .Beth Ann.

  9. So nostalgic. Randy’s much more a music fan than me, so I bet he would enjoy this tour. I’d like the vintageness of the venue.

  10. Great post! I love Buddy Holly.

  11. I just love places like this. so full of history. wonderful. and of course, you can’t go wrong with the beach in my opinion.

  12. Well that was a lovely trip back in time 🙂

  13. I forgot that this was the place Buddy Holly, Richie Valens and The Big Bopper played at before their lives were so tragically cut short. I went back to read about your visit to the crash site. I would find both of these sites very moving as this event upset me a lot when I was a young girl. Have you been to any concerts at The Surf Ballroom?

    • We have seen several concerts at the Surf and it is such a great place to go because you can be right up close to the stage. We saw B B King twice and our favorite of all was the Chicago show. Amazing!

      • Lucky you. Chicago would be great (as would B B King). Better than a huge arena where the singers are just dots.

        • I totally agree with the small venue –it is such a great way to be able to really experience the groups. They get some pretty amazing folks playing there but we don’t get to take them all in.

  14. When you get to Texas, go see the Buddy Holly Museum in his hometown Lubbock. It’s something to see, plus there’s a large statue of him downtown. Really a neat place to visit.

  15. This was all new to me. Looks like their was lots to enjoy. It’s a shame that it was “a last” and good that the memories lived on.

  16. Thanks fascinating and informative – and because of the Buddy connection poignant. I look forward to reading more here. Regards from Thom at the Immortal Jukebox (drop a nickel sometime).

    • Thanks for stopping by, Thom! There is so much history there and I loved seeing all the great things. It would take a whole day to look at every single item on display!

  17. Wow, there is a LOT of history in that place. Thanks for sharing.

  18. What a great place to visit – the last place Buddy Holly played! The place where the booths are reminded me of a bowling alley though.

Trackbacks

  1. […] Valens, and The Big Bopper. Beth Ann Chilies of It’s Just Life, recently visited the Surf Ballroom and had the chance to take a step back into time. Anyone who is wanting to tour the building is […]

  2. […] Valens, and The Big Bopper. Beth Ann Chilies of It’s Just Life, recently visited the Surf Ballroom and had the chance to take a step back into time. Anyone who is wanting to tour the building is […]

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