CLEAR LAKE — Disco arm moves and conga lines were right at home Wednesday night along with the Twist and traditional ’50s dance twirls at the annual Winter Dance Party Family Sock Hop at the Surf Ballroom.

The Sock Hop traditionally kicks off the four-day event that celebrates the music of Buddy Holly, J.P. “Big Bopper” Richardson and Ritchie Valens, who died in a plane crash on Feb. 3, 1959, after the Surf’s first Winter Dance Party.

Boys and girls, some too young to stray far from their parents, came dressed for the occasion in Buddy Holly-style black-rimmed glasses, poodle skirts, chiffon pony tail ties, leather jackets and saddle shoes to dance to live ’50s-’60 smusic by Denny & The DC Drifters.

“I’ll be chasing this guy around all night,” said Langdon Dedine of Clear Lake as he held onto his 17-month-old son, Easton. “The atmosphere here is just great.”

The elementary children had been learning to do the Twist and other dances ahead of time in school, said Kristin Ebeling of Clear Lake, who came with her husband, Mark, and daughters Elle, 5, and Georgia, 3.

“They love coming over and seeing all the kids,” she said.

Twins Sophia and Ava Ollenburg, 9, were ready to jive in their poodle skirts, cardigan sweaters and bright red lipstick.

“We like to dance and play around with our friends,” they said.

Tanner Beier and Anthony Aragon, both 11, talked matter-of-factly about their dancing prowess.

“We can do most anything,” Aragon explained.

They agreed that Buddy Holly was “a great guy who really loved to sing,” but probably their favorite song is “La Bamba,” as sung by Ritchie Valens.

On stage, Jeff Nicholas, president of the Surf Ballroom and Museum board of directors, told the crowd of jumping, energetic young people they represent the future of the Surf Ballroom.

“I don’t think I’ve ever seen this much enthusiasm on a Wednesday night,” Nicholas said.

Bob Hale, former deejay at KRIB in Mason City and WLS in Chicago, who was emcee for the 1959 Winter Dance Party, said hosting the sock hop for children “is the smartest thing the Surf could do.”

“They are introducing young people to a brilliant period of music in this country,” he said.

The Winter Dance Party continues tonight with an evening concert “Ricky Nelson Remembered,” featuring Matthew and Gunnar Nelson, Albert Lee and Gary U.S. Bonds and Denny & The DC Drifters.


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