Clear Lake, Iowa – The famed Winter Dance Party got underway Wednesday night at the Surf Ballroom in Clear Lake. The 39th annual event honors the memory of rock-n-rollers Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens and “The Big Bopper” J-P Richardson who died in a plane crash in February of 1959 after performing at the historic venue. Surf Ballroom director Laurie Lietz says they’ve scheduled another full weekend of entertainment.
Among the people to be honored at this year’s event will be its founder. Iowa Rock and Roll Hall of Fame member Darryl Hensley organized the first event in 1979 while working for a Clear Lake radio station. Hensley died in September in a bike accident near Burlington. Lietz says Hensley tried to make it back to Clear Lake every year.
Also being honored is Dean Snyder, who saved the ballroom when he purchased it back in the 1990s. Snyder died recently in Clear Lake. Lietz credits Snyder and his family for keeping the event and the ballroom going.
Lietz says planning for the event takes more than a year, and with some of the musicians getting older, sometimes they don’t want to come to north-central Iowa in early February to perform.
More information about the Winter Dance Party can be found here.