CLEAR LAKE — Norm Keon, of St. Louis, Mich., can remember the first Winter Dance Party he attended, in 1984.
“We got snowed in here that year,” he said. “They wouldn’t let anyone who was staying in Mason City go. About 70 had to stay here.”
It wasn’t snowing for the Winter Dance Party Thursday night, and the 30-below-zero wind chills outside didn’t stop the hundreds inside the Surf Ballroom from taking a trip back in time to the 1950s.
“This is a real special place,” said Keon, who was there with his wife, L Quinn. “I get goosebumps every time I come here because it’s just like it was.”
“History happened here,” he added, referring to Buddy Holly, J.P. “Big Bopper” Richardson and Richie Valens, who died in a plane crash on Feb. 3, 1959, after the Surf’s first Winter Dance Party.
The now four-day event celebrates them and their music. Thursday night’s concert included performances by Ricky Nelson Remembered featuring Matthew and Gunnar Nelson, Gary U.S. Bonds, Albert Lee and Denny & the DC Drifters.
“I love it,” said Dumont native Charolet Hanson, of Idaho Springs, Colo., who was there with her husband, Don. “It’s the music we grew up with.”
It was their third year attending the Winter Dance Party and they were looking forward to hearing Ricky Nelson’s twin sons perform.
“We used to see Ricky Nelson a lot,” Don said. “We used to see him whenever he came to Denver.”
Kim and Jasper Boyd, Clear Lake, didn’t grow up in the 1950s, but still enjoy the music.
“It puts you in a great mood and reminds you of a simpler time,” Kim said. “I listened to my dad play it all the time.”
“It’s very energetic,” Jasper said.
Dressed in 1950s attire, it was the couple’s first time attending more than just Wednesday night’s Family Sock Hop.
“We came to the sock hop last year and it was a lot of fun,” Kim said.
They were looking forward to the rest of the Winter Dance Party, which continues through Saturday night.
“Every night is going to be a great night,” Jasper said.