Crash’s Adventures: Surf Ballroom Is A Music Mecca

Last weekend, I finally had the opportunity to visit the world famous Surf Ballroom in Clear Lake, Iowa. For music fans, this is a MUST see as it’s essentially a museum that hosts concerts!

A group of us made the 3 1/2 hour drive to go see an incredible funk band called ‘Here Come The Mummies‘. I’ve seen them here in Sioux Falls a few times over the years, so was looking forward to seeing them again, plus spending time with my family of friends is ALWAYS a good time. I wasn’t prepared to see all the memorabilia that the Surf houses though!

As you pull in to the tourist town that is home to under 8,000 people, you come across Buddy Holly Place, JP Richardson Avenue, and Ritchie Valens Drive, a reminder of ‘The Day The Music Died’ when a small chartered plane carrying the three young music stars crashed February 3, 1959 after the Winter Dance Party at the Surf.

Buddy Holly Place
JP & Ritchie

A good portion of the memorabilia at the Surf of course honors that trio, but a friend and I got a chance to spend about 90 minutes uninterrupted to browse through everything the afternoon of the show. You could feel the ghosts of not only past entertainers but guests as well as the Surf opened in the 1940’s. The original building burned down and was rebuilt across the street in the 50’s where it still stands.

It truly is an old ballroom with hardwood floors, original (and very small!) booths and just an incredible vibe. I took a LOT more photos than I will post here, but when you go to a show there, make sure you get there as early as possible like we did so you can take it all in!

We also ventured out to the crash site where the three singers lost their lives. I was surprised that there wasn’t a small visitors center at the actual site, a well-marked path leading out to the field or even a parking lot. We literally parked on the side of the road and walked a half mile through a farmers field to get to the site. It was a surreal experience but one I felt I had to make, despite the crash happening several years before I was even born.

Crash Site Memorial

There are a few small motels in town to rent, but we opted for a “VRBO”, which is Vacation Rental By Owner. We lucked out and found a three bedroom house for the nine of us less than a block from the Surf at a VERY affordable price. We walked all over town and had an absolute blast from the fantastic Italian meal at GeJo’s by the Lake to the show itself, to the walk back through time. This is a must take road trip for music fans of all ages. Personally, I can’t wait to go back again!

Actual phone on display at the Surf that Holly and Valens used.
Here Come The Mummies!
Inside the fabulous Surf Ballroom
Once you go to the crash site in person, this photo becomes creepy