In the midst of miles and miles and miles of corn and bean fields is a gem: Clear Lake, Iowa.
One of Clear Lake's premier attractions is the Surf Ballroom. Located near the intersection of North Shore Drive and Buddy Holly Place, the ballroom is best known as the site of Buddy Holly's last concert on February 2, 1959. Holly, along with Ritchie Valens and J.P. "The Big Bopper" Richardson, died in a plane crash north of Clear Lake following their performance at the Surf in the early morning hours of February 3rd. Each year, a tribute is held the first full weekend in February to pay tribute to the legendary performers.
In 1995, the Surf Ballroom was restored to its original splendor, thanks to the Dean Snyder family which purchased the ballroom in September of 1994. The ballroom had the great honor of being named Iowa's Attraction of the Year in 1995. In 1998, the Surf, along with former manager Carroll Anderson, was officially inducted into the Iowa Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Okoboji, Iowa.
Throughout the year, the Surf Ballroom is host to a variety of musical acts, ranging from rock and roll, to jazz, the blues and traditional big bands.
Just a few miles out of town, visitors may visit the site of the crash. It was just another Iowa soybean field before the plane carrying Buddy Holly went down there. Now, to fans, it's hallowed ground.
Ken Paquette, who lives in Portersfield, Wis., 50 miles north of Green Bay, wanted something permanent at the exact location of the crash. "People didn't know exactly where it was," said Paquette, a 50's era fan. "There were flowers scattered all along the fence line. I thought there should be something there."
Paquette made a stainless steel guitar and a set of three stainless steel records. On the guitar are the names Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens, and The Big Bopper, along with the date of the crash, 2/3/59. On the records, there are the names of the recording labels and the big hits for the three artists: "Peggy Sue" on Coral, "Donna" on Del Fi and "Chantilly Lace" on Mercury.
The memorial is located on private property. Visitors are asked to respect their rights while visiting "The Place The Music Died."
While there are so many attractions in the area, including the Fort Custer Maze, Central Gardens of North Iowa, Guardian Angel Roadside Chapel, Clear Lake Fire Museum, and quaint neighborhoods and downtown shops, none compares to the town's namesake: Clear Lake. These pictures don't do it justice, but hopefully, you'll see a hint of its beauty when viewed in person. To best see the spring-fed crystal clear lake during a visit, you may want to take a ride on the Lady of the Lake, a beautiful stern wheeler ferry boat.
Our time in town was short, but immediately, I could tell this would be a great place for a peaceful, relaxing vacation for anyone who loves water and architecture. It resembles an ocean shore town, and it seems unbelievable that it could be situated in the heart of the midwest. Hope you have the opportunity to visit Clear Lake sometime.