by Michelle Watson and Marianne Morf
The Surf Ballroom has been celebrating the music of Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens and J.P. “The Big Bopper” Richardson for 35 years. But judging by the 2014 event, the Winter Dance Party hasn’t lost a step.
Thousands stepped back in time over the weekend to hear the sounds
of the 1950s and 60s, combined with the atmosphere and genuine appreciation for the music and artists which shaped rock and roll.
“It’s a great crowd to play for. They appreciate what I do,” said Tommy Allsup, who appeared on stage at the Surf the same February 1959 night Holly, Valens and Richardson last performed. “I have a lot of memories here. The Surf reminds me of what happened here and of that last night. I think of it every day and coming back here keeps those memories alive for me. I’ll keep coming back as long as I can.”
A special guest at this 35th anniversary of the first Winter Dance Party celebration was Darryl Hensley, organizer of the first event back in 1979. The idea started with a spoof Hensley, known as The Mad Hatter, a disc jockey on local radio channel KZEV, was doing. He joked that he was going to bring Buddy Holly back, like a time warp. An associate producer from Minneapolis heard him and asked if he was going to make it happen. The Hatter said he borrowed $20,000 and lost $4,000 on the first show.
“It is a real ego booster to have people remember you after 35 years,” said The Hatter, who traveled to Clear Lake from his Burlington, Iowa home to host the Friday night anniversary of the first Mad Hatter’s Tea Party. “I am extremely happy to see how successful the event has become. The right people are heading it up now, the kind of people who are going to keep it going strong.”
Tom Thoma said he was at the first Mad Hatter’s Tea Party. “There were a lot of empty seats and we couldn’t give tickets away. It’s great to see Hatter back. He is a crazy guy who brought a lot of energy to the area. It took a lot of work to get this night together.”
Kevin Hanson and Denni Sue Erickson are just two of the many people who work behind the scenes to help the Surf pull off the huge, successful event.
Hanson said he has been volunteering for nine years. He is the Associate Producer, in charge of musicians and assisting the bands with their needs. He keeps the show running as it should
“It’s exciting being a small part of history. I enjoy working with the entertainers and making them comfortable and helping the show to go smoothly.”
Erickson started volunteering in 2007 and is in charge of hospitality and taking care of the stars back stage.
“The Surf may just be made of bricks and mortar, but to me the Surf is the people, not just the artists, but everyone who - Read More Via e-Edition