CLEAR LAKE — The last five years have been a fun ride for Laurie Lietz.
Lietz, Forest City, was hired five years ago as the executive director of the non-profit North Iowa Cultural Center & Museum which operates the Surf Ballroom.
She oversees the business operations of the Surf including marketing, finances, facility maintenance, tours and volunteer scheduling.
“She always has a smile on her face. She’s always upbeat. She’s just a winner,” said Clear Lake Mayor Nelson Crabb.
“The North Iowa Cultural Center & Museum is one of the most important venues we have in this city. And I don’t think you could find a better ambassador for the Surf which in turn is an ambassador for the city.”
Lietz spent 10 years at the Clear Lake Area Chamber of Commerce working as tourism director before moving to the Surf.
She is a graduate of Spencer College with a degree in hotel and restaurant management.
“It’s been a blur quite honestly,” Lietz said. “I just can’t believe its been five years. So many great things have been happening. We just kind of go from one thing to the next. We’ve built such a great team in North Iowa.”
There have been many memories in the last five years.
“I try to take a few minutes during each show to kind of stand back and watch people enjoying themselves because that’s why the place was built. It’s for people to come in and forget about whatever their troubles may be and just enjoy being there and stepping into another world, so to speak. Those are my favorite moments, watching people come in and make memories.”
She doesn’t meet many of the artists who perform at the Surf.
“I give up my ‘meet and greet’ to somebody whose life dream it is to meet whatever artist it is,”
Lietz said. “I’d rather see somebody (in the crowd) having a good time.”
As a busy wife and mother of 2-year-old Owen and 3-year-old Taelyn with husband Mike, Lietz has learned the importance of keeping good notes, delegating when necessary and accepting help when offered.
With a small paid staff, most of the work at the Surf is done by community volunteers.
“They all make it happen. I am just kind of the glue that holds it all together,” she said. “I love working with people. I feel like I created a new family. It’s just another family for me. The volunteers that come in, it’s fun to be a part of the team.”
The Surf WILL celebrate its 65th anniversary in its current location in July.
“It is a fantastic feeling to have such a busy venue in North Iowa. It’s still there. It feels like somebody is watching over the place sometimes,” Lietz said.
Jeff Nicholas, president of the North Iowa Cultural Center & Museum board of directors, said Lietz has provided an incredible amount of stability in the operation of the Surf.
“It is such a treat to be at the Surf and see her interact with volunteers, with staff, with entertainers, with entertainers’ management and the general public,” Nicholas said.
“She does just an incredible job juggling and working with all those people. It has been so important. The Surf has gone through so many different people that have sat at that desk, myself included, for short periods of time. Laurie has been there five years now and we are hoping that she will be there for many years to come.”
And to show how the legend of Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens and J.P. “The Big Bopper” Richardson has influenced many parts of Lietz’s life, last week she caught her son Owen singing Holly’s hit “Maybe Baby.”
What’s next — “Chantilly Lace?”