65 Years of History and Counting


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CLEAR LAKE, IA – It’s history in the making for one north Iowa venue known for being a stage for the best that music has to offer.

“What’s so nice about working here is I can relive that memory every day knowing that my parents brought me here,” said Kevin Christgau with The Surf Ballroom.

When Wayne Christgau was seven years old, he made his first trip out to The Surf Ballroom in Clear Lake and since then it’s been a love affair with music history.

“On weekends my parents would make the circuit to various ballrooms. Being very young at that time, my mom didn’t like to spend money on a baby sitter so she would just pack up some things and bring me along,” said Christgau.

Wayne found his way back to Clear Lake where he now works maintenance on the building and guides tours on the musical history behind one of north Iowa’s premier music hot spots.

“Over the years I’ve collected a number of pictures of artists I’ve introduced on stage and to be able to bring them on and introduce them knowing that I listened to their music probably on 8-tracks back in the 60’s. To have them here on stage, that’s pretty special,” said Christgau.

Today marks the 65 year anniversary of The Surf Ballroom being opened and while they commemorate an era of music, they do so by paying homage to three rock and roll pioneers.

Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens and J.P. “The Big Bopper” Richardson who all played their last tune here before dying in a fatal plane accident in 1959.

While The Surf will always be linked to “The Day The Music Died,” they’ve found a way to use the tragedy to keep an era of music alive.

“It was a tragedy but we’re all about celebration. We’re about embracing their life and their times and their music. Then educating the young people about what they did,” said Jeff Nicholas, President of North Iowa Cultural Center and Museum.

Like Wayne, and Jeff it’s their love of music and the rich history that brings them back and they believe it’s the same for others as well.

“Music just portrays what’s happening in our society and in our lives. So I think that’s what touches people and brings them back. It’s just a fantastic place,” said Nicholas.

All week The Surf will feature the big band music similar to the music played during that era.

They say it’s a fitting way to celebrate more than 65 years of music history.

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