1. The Original Surf Ballroom was built

    Carl Fox

    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 Bands seeking to gain National attention, performers such as Count Basie, Duke Ellington and Dorsey Brothers.

  2. Carl Fox sold the Surf and two sister ballrooms

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

  3. Fire

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

  4. Reopened

    The current Surf Ballroom reopened across the street from its original location. The cost to rebuild was an estimated $350,000.

  5. The new Surf Ballroom

    The new Surf Ballroom

    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.

  6. Winter Dance Party Tour

    Winter Dance Party Tour

    The original 'Winter Dance Party Tour' made its final stop at the Surf Ballroom. Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens, J.P. "The Big Bopper" Richardson, Dion & 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.'

  7. Surf was purchased

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

  8. Major Remodeling

    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.)

  9. Surf was sold

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

  10. Cypress Room

    Cypress Room

    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.

  11. Surf ownership changed hands

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

  12. Surf was sold

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

  13. Surf was sold

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

  14. Red Velvet

    Red Velvet

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

  15. Dean Snyder family of Clear Lake purchased the Surf Ballroom


    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.

  16. Reopened

    The Surf reopened their doors just in time for the Winter Dance Party.

  17. Hall of Fame Induction


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

  18. 501c3 Established to Operate the Surf

    The North Iowa Cultural Center and Museum takes over operations of the Surf Ballroom. The building is leased to the entity by the Dean Snyder Family (Surf Ltd.).

  19. 50 Winters Later

    The Surf Ballroom was dedicated by the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as a historic rock and roll landmark as part of their ongoing Landmark Series, identifying locations in America significant to the origins of rock and roll. This honor was announced at a press conference during the Winter Dance Party - 50 Winters Later Celebration.

  20. National Register of Historic Places

    National Register of Historic Places

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

  21. Lobby Updates

    Lobby Updates

    New period carpet was installed in the Lobby, and hand painted pineapple murals were historically recreated.

  22. Roof Replacement

    The Surf's roof underwent a complete replacement, including removal and replacement of the rubber roofing membrane that covers the dome.

  23. Restroom Restoration

    Restroom Restoration

    After discovering a roll of the original wall covering in storage, the mens and womens restrooms were updated using an exact replica of the original wallpaper used in the spaces when the Surf was originally constructed in 1948.

  24. National Historic Landmark

    The U.S Department of the Interior designated the Surf Ballroom as a National Historic Landmark, recognizing the Surf's enduring role in the history of American music. The Surf Ballroom is Iowa's 27th National Historic Landmark.