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Remembering two keys to the successful Surf Ballroom: 'She just wants the legacy to carry on'

They purchased the property and restored it. All because, as Dean put it, Joanne "didn’t like to fish."

Posted: Apr 5, 2019 10:05 PM
Updated: Apr 6, 2019 3:06 PM

CLEAR LAKE, Iowa- The Surf Ballroom officially opened its doors in 1934. That includes the Winter Dance Party where Buddy Holly, Ritche Valens and JP “The Big Bopper” played their last show. All that history was in danger in 1994 when The Surf was set to be demolished.
Enter the Snyder family. They purchased the property and restored it. All because, as Dean put it, Joanne "didn’t like to fish." More importantly, she loved to dance. Joanne died this week.
“She loved to dance and they did,” said Laurie Lietz, Executive Director of the Surf Ballroom. “They were here every big band dance when I first started.”
When the Snyders bought the place they got right to work. Dean Snyder shared that story with us a few years ago.
“Scraped all the gum off all the 500 chairs and I don’t even know how many tables there are but we scraped off all the gum that had been there since 1948,” he said. “Some of it was piled an inch high.”
“It was black jack gum,” said Joanne.
Lietz said the couple would often come in, hand-in-hand, just to see what was going on. They loved their dance club and wanted to ensure it maintained its historic appeal.
“If you notice on all the old pictures the wall is supposed to look like a checker board,” said Dean. “That’s how the original Surf was.”
The restoration was hard work but it was a labor of love as the couple regularly danced the night away.
“They would come in all dressed up and just be a part of the crowd,” said Lietz. “Just sit and watch the people. It was fun to have them here and be a part of the spirit.”
Yes, Joanne loved to dance. But she also wanted this historic venue to survive so that future generations could dance as well.
“She just wants the legacy to carry on,” said Lietz. “It was really important to her to have the music here and have dancing and have an opportunity for the community to come out.”
Had she liked to fish, Dean would have bought her a fishing pole and life would have been very different indeed.
Lietz said they will discuss permanently reserving the Snyder’s booth but said Joanne would probably have resisted that. She likely has preferred someone else sit the booth and enjoy the music the way she and Dean did for all those years.

Minnesota Coronavirus Cases

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Reported Deaths: 7122
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Iowa Coronavirus Cases

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Cases: 359450

Reported Deaths: 5839
CountyCasesDeaths
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