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Clear Lake’s Surf Ballroom designated National Historic Landmark

CLEAR LAKE — The Surf Ballroom, the venue in Clear Lake best known for hosting the last concert of Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens, and J.P. “The Big Bopper” Richardson before the trio died in a 1959 plane crash is now a National Historic Landmark.

The U.S. Department of the Interior issued the designation to the Surf Ballroom in Clear Lake, according to a news release issued late Friday from the Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs. National Historic Landmarks are buildings, sites, districts, structures and objects that have been determined to be nationally significant in American history and culture.

The ballroom’s nomination was officially approved on Jan. 13. It is Iowa’s 27th National Historic Landmark, joining a list that includes the American Gothic House in Eldon, the gold-domed State Capitol and the Sergeant Floyd Monument in Sioux City. 

Officials noted the Surf is the most well-preserved venue remaining on the 1959 Winter Dance Party Tour and represents the nationwide dance-party tour phenomenon, a trend that helped establish touring as a legitimate business within the music industry.

Holly, Valens and Richardson performed at the Surf Ballroom and then opted to fly to their next show rather than take their tour bus. They died early on the morning of Feb. 3, 1959, when their small chartered airplane crashed near Clear Lake shortly after takeoff.


The Associated Press contributed to this report

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