Iowa's historic Surf Ballroom earns Academy of Country Music Awards nomination
The Winter Dance Party at Clear Lake, Iowa's Surf Ballroom celebrates rock 'n' roll and honors the legacies of Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens and the Big Bopper, who died Feb. 3, 1959 in an airplane crash after a show at the Surf. Brian Powers, email@example.com
Nashville's taken notice of northern Iowa.
The Surf Ballroom in Clear Lake earned Wednesday an Academy of Country Music Awards nomination for Venue of the Year — Small Capacity.
Known as the last stage played by American rock 'n' roll pioneers Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens and the Big Bopper, the National Rock and Roll Landmark opened in 1933, relocating in 1948, and continues to host roughly 30 concerts a year.
"I’m sitting here thinking about all the people over the years that the Surf has been open (who) work so hard make the Surf what it is," said Surf Ballroom board of directors president Jeff Nicholas. "We do it for the music. We do it for the friendships. We do it for the passion of the Surf.
"This recognition ... it’s about all those people that have worked so hard and made the Surf such a special place in the music business."
The Surf Ballroom welcomed an international audience earlier this month for its 40th annual Winter Dance Party celebration, a sold-out four-night festival commemorating traditional rock 'n' roll.
Operated by a small staff and roughly 300 volunteers, the nonprofit Surf hosts about 60,000 guests annually, either for a walk through the museum or a ticketed concert.
Nicholas believes it's the first national award show nomination for the venue.
The Surf competes in the category with House of Blues locations in Anaheim and Boston, Floore's in Helotes, Texas, and the historic Ryman Auditorium in Nashville.
A panel of judges nominate five venues to be voted on by Academy of Country Music members. Venues qualify by promoting ticket sales, being in "good standing" with talent agents and hosting at least five country concerts in 2018, an academy representative said.
A small capacity venue holds a maximum of 4,000 concertgoers. The Georgia Theatre in Athens won last year. Des Moines' own Hoyt Sherman Place earned a nomination in 2017.
Reba McEntire helped announce the nominees for the 54th Academy of Country Music Awards Wednesday on CBS. McEntire returns as host of the show when it airs live from MGM Grand’s Garden Arena in Las Vegas 7 p.m. April 7 on CBS.
The Venue of the Year award won't be shown during the broadcast; it comes as part of the ACM annual industry awards.
Dan + Shay, Chris Stapleton and Kacey Musgraves lead the year's popular categories. See a full list of nominees here.
The Tennessean contributed to this report.
Visit the Surf
Where: 60 N Shore Drive, Clear Lake. By-donation museum open from 8 a.m.-4 p.m. weekdays.
Upcoming concerts: Hairball (March 1); The Band Perry (March 3); The Johnny Holm Band (March 15); Dylan Scott (March 29); Delbert McClinton (April 26).
Find more information: surfballroom.com.
The Surf's national honors
The Surf Ballroom's singular place in pop music history has been recognized in many ways. Two of the most significant, according to its website:
- In 2009, the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, in Cleveland, Ohio, dedicated the Surf as a historic American rock 'n' roll landmark, identified as a location significant to the origins and development of rock 'n' roll. The plaque reads: "There are few buildings in existence today that represent a complete shift in our musical history. As the last concert venue for Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens and J.P. 'the Big Bopper' Richardson, the Surf is the bedrock of where the sound and attitude of rock and roll changed forever."
- In 2011, the Surf Ballroom & Museum was officially listed on the National Register of Historic Places.