CLEAR LAKE | The summer might bring in the most tourists for water sports, fishing, the 4th of July and more, but the Winter Dance Party always kicks off the year.
“It’s a real boost for us in the middle of winter,” Clear Lake Chamber of Commerce Tourism Director Libbey Patton said.
Local businesses see a spike when 50s music lovers make it to town. Restaurants and bars draw in many customers through the week.
The Anchor Inn held specials through the week including a kids' night for the Sock Hop on Wednesday with discounted burger baskets.
“Clear Lake's Winter Dance Party had a huge spike and impact for local businesses,” manager Angie Harris said. “At least for our industry, because everyone is always wanting to enjoy the local food and bar establishments.”
Harris said business has been great due to the proximity to the Surf Ballroom as well.
“It takes a lot of planning and several extra hands on deck to pull off this particular weekend,” Harris said. “We are grateful to have such a fun event during the town's off season.”
Grant Maulsby, owner of the Surf District Rock ‘n Roll Grill, had entertainment throughout the week.
“It’s extra busy,” Maulsby said. The restaurant was packed Friday and Saturday.
Summer is quite different from the Winter Dance Party frenzy, Maulsby said, but these are the busiest few days of the year.
“All of our hotels are booked,” Patton said.
The Best Western also hosts the annual British Buddy Holly Society Luncheon. The hotel is completely booked for Winter Dance Party each year.
General manager Lori Faught said Winter Dance Party goers book their rooms a year in advance and have begun getting requests for next year.
“Most of them come no matter what,” Faught said. “Some will wait to see what bands will be there.”
The Best Western started to hold breakfast buffets at night for guests.
“Those are really nice because they just want to have bloody marys and hang out,” Faught said. “It’s fun to see them and the same people come year after year. They’re such a fun group to have.”
The Clear Lake Chamber estimates that the Winter Dance Party generates about $1 million for the town, although no formal study has been conducted. The impact is visible through the week as poodle skirt clad ladies mill about Main Street, shopping between events.
“It seems like there’s a lot more people around this year,” Patton said.
Though the acts performing at the Winter Dance Party are changing, the event continues to be popular and brings in new fans and performers each year.
Austin Allsup performed in place of his father, Tommy Allsup, who died Jan. 11 and was scheduled to perform this year. Austin announced that he would like to return each year for the event, if possible.
The Killer Vees performed a tribute to Bobby Vee, a frequent performer and supporter of the Winter Dance Party, who died in October 2016.
Andy Yaun, 19, of Wisconsin, has been going to the event for several years. He got into the music through his dad and his own love of the Stray Cats.
“It’s lots of fun,” Yaun said. “I think a lot of the younger kids like the music but they don’t know that they like it yet.”
Jamie Bell, the main singer with the Baldy Holly Band based in northeast England, loves to share the classic music with new generations.
“It warms my heart,” Bell said.
Last year, Bell performed at the annual Winter School Dance Party event at Clear Lake Middle School. He wants to keep sharing the music with audiences old and new.
“As long as I’m alive, the music will live on,” Bell said.