Timeline - Highlights of The Surf's history

1936

April 17 - The Original Surf Ballroom was built by Carl J. Fox across the street from its current location on the shores of Clear Lake. The venue featured a 90x120 foot hardwood dance floor and a roof garden for dancing outdoors. Throughout the 30's and 40's the original Surf was a "must stop" venue for Big Band seeking to gain National attention, performers such as Count Basie, Duke Ellington and Dorsey Brothers.

1946

Carl Fox sold the Surf and two sister ballrooms, The Terp & The Prom to Prom, Inc. of Chicago for $1,300,000.

1947

April 20 - Fire destroyed the Original Surf Ballroom. Plans for its replacement were quickly underway.

1948

July 1 - The current Surf Ballroom reopened. The cost to rebuild was an estimated $350,000.

1950

The new Surf Ballroom carried on the tradition, bringing in big-named entertainers and making it a "must-play" venue on the Big Band performance circuit. By the mid-50's, change was in the air and the Surf responded to the demands of young audience members by changing its format from Big Bands to more of the current performers...Rock and Roll had arrived at the Surf.

1959

February 2- The original 'Winter Dance Party Tour' made its final stop at the Surf Ballroom. Buddy Holly, Richie Valens, the Big Bopper, Dion and the Belmonts and Frankie Sardo played before an estimated 1100 enthusiastic fans. Unfortunately, the plane carrying the trio and their pilot Roger Peterson, crashed early the next morning. The tragic death of the three stars is often referred to as 'The Day The Music Died.'

1960

The Surf was purchased by C.C Mitchell and Co. of Chicago.

1961

A major remodeling project changed the Surf's interior from the beach club motif to a theme reflecting that of 4 seasons. The original murals were covered with scenes depicting Winter, Spring, Summer and Fall. (The original murals were uncovered again in 1994.)

1963

The Surf was sold to two Clear Lake business men, Ray Seney and Richard Casey.

1964

Some alterations were made to the building during this period, including the addition of an outside patio on to the south side, just outside of the "Cypress Room" (now the Surf's Lounge). The marquee over the entrance awning was also likely added at this time.

1968

January-The Surf was sold to Bill Eaton of Clear Lake and his brother, Kenneth Eaton, of Chicago.

1974

Mark Arneson, James Connell, Robert Halford, and Louis Schuler purchased the Surf.

1979

February- The Mad Hatter organized and hosted the first Buddy Holly Tribute event.

1991

The red velvet swag and stage curtains were restored to their original appearance.

1994

The Surf Ballroom closed its doors for a brief period before being purchased and historically rehabilitated by the Dean Snyder family of Clear Lake. At the time of its purchase, the venue stood in a state of disrepair with significant damage to the dance floor due to roof leakage. Wallpaper was removed in the foyer to uncover the pineapple stenciling, which was also restored. The original murals were uncovered, the palm trees were returned to the stage area, the maple floor was sanded, resealed, and waxed, and a replica of the original carpet was installed.

1995

In February, the Surf reopened their doors just in time for the Winter Dance Party.

1998

The Surf Ballroom was inducted into the Iowa Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

2009

January 29 - The Surf Ballroom was designated as an historic landmark by the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. This honor was announced at a press conference during the Winter Dance Party - 50 Winters Later.

2011

September 16 - The Surf Ballroom was officially listed on the National Register of Historic Places by the United States Department of the Interior.