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CHRIS ZOELLER, The Globe Gazette 

People of all ages dance and sing along with the Johnny Rogers History of Rock Show, which kicked off the annual Winter Dance Party Wednesday at the Surf Ballroom.

Clear Lake's Winter Dance Party kicks off despite Snyder's absence

CLEAR LAKE | Hundreds of dancers of all ages took to the dance floor Wednesday evening to kick off the annual Winter Dance Party with the family sock hop at the Surf Ballroom in Clear Lake.

But amidst the poodle skirts, Buddy Holly-style glasses and saddle shoes, something — or rather someone — was missing.

This year marks the first Winter Dance Party, which runs from Wednesday through Saturday, without Dean Snyder, founder of Dean Snyder Construction Co. and whose family owns the Surf Ballroom. He died Jan. 13.

“(Dean and Joanne) were champions of the Surf,” said Laurie Lietz, Surf Ballroom & Museum executive director and events coordinator.

In his place, a bouquet of flowers and a photograph of Snyder and his wife, Joanne, dancing will be placed at a booth in the ballroom during the Winter Dance Party and will remain there for the duration of the event to allow party-goers the opportunity to share well-wishes with the family, Lietz said.

The booth, No. 113, will forever be reserved in the Snyders’ name, she added.

A tribute is planned for Snyder after the annual Three Stars Finale Saturday evening, she said. Members of the Snyder family are expected to be in attendance.

“It’s a little more difficult (this year),” said Snyder’s son, David, who plans on attending the Winter Dance Party with his wife, Vickie, this weekend. “We want to be there for the fans. We feel like we need to be there for them.”

David said he and his brother, Dale, and their spouses started attending the Winter Dance Party while his parents spent “a lot of years” in Arizona.

“It truly is overwhelming,” he said. “When we purchased (the Surf Ballroom), we had no idea what it meant to everybody, and every year it gets bigger and bigger ... It’s pretty humbling.”

When the Surf Ballroom was in danger of closing in 1994, Snyder bought it and refurbished it so Clear Lake would not lose one of its gems.

Snyder, along with family, friends and volunteers, spent months working to restore the ballroom to its original glory ahead of the 1995 Winter Dance Party.

“That was the family part of it,” David said, about restoring the Surf Ballroom. “We kind of all took different parts of it and worked on it, and dad took all the dirty parts of it.”

He referred to his father’s cleaning of piles of broken furniture that filled the tunnels under the current building from previous owners and managers.

In 2008, the Snyder family leased the building to the North Iowa Cultural Center and Museum for daily operations, but remain involved.

Lietz, who had known Snyder for nearly 10 years, said he and his wife of 63 years always made an effort to attend the Surf’s events, especially Big Band dances on Sundays and the Winter Dance Party, to meet new fans of the venue as well as reminisce with longtime patrons.

“They just enjoyed sampling all the music, energy and activities the Surf offered,” she said.

The Winter Dance Party — in its 39th year — was started in 1979 to commemorate the 20th anniversary of Buddy Holly, J.P. “The Big Bopper” Richardson and Ritchie Valens’ last performance at the Surf Ballroom.

The three — along with pilot Roger Peterson — died in a plane crash Feb. 3, 1959, about 5 miles north of Clear Lake.

Saturday's grand finale will include Brenda Lee and Bobby Rydell, along with Winter Dance Party favorites Albert Lee & Friends; Linda Gail Lewis, sister of legendary rocker Jerry Lee Lewis; and Danny B. Harvey & Annie Marie Lewis.

Tickets to the Winter Dance Party, good Thursday through Saturday evenings, are $115 in advance or $125 at the door. The VIP tickets are sold out.

Lietz said tickets are still available but are expected to sell out.

Tickets may be purchased at or by calling the Surf’s box office at 641-357-6151 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday.

CHRIS ZOELLER, The Globe Gazette 

People of all ages dance and sing along with the Johnny Rogers History of Rock Show, which kicked off the annual Winter Dance Party Wednesday at the Surf Ballroom.

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Officers involved in fatal North Iowa shooting identified

PLAINFIELD | The Bremer County Attorney’s Office has released the names of the officers involved in a fatal shooting near Plainfield earlier this month.

The officers, who are named in no particular order, are:

• Trooper Nathaniel Miller.

• Trooper Chris Forsyth.

• Trooper Ken Haut.

• Bremer County Deputy Glenn Beenblossom.

• Nashua Police Chief Travis Marvin.

• Nashua Police Officer Benjamin Scholl.

• Chickasaw County Deputy Adam Hanson.

The investigating agencies have not said which officers fired the shots or if they have been placed on leave. 

Jihad Merrick, 29, of Minneapolis, was fatally shot by officers after a chase Jan. 17. Officials said the incident began with a 911 call of a person, later identified as Merrick, pointing a gun at his head in the parking lot of Love's Truck Stop near Floyd about 8:30 p.m. 

Merrick then fled the area and was stopped by a Nashua police officer for going 104 mph on Highway 218 in Bremer County, officials said, and exited the vehicle with a handgun pointed at his head. 

Officials from three agencies arrived and began negotiating with the man, who fired a shot from inside the vehicle about 40 minutes later. 

Merrick was unharmed, officials said, but resisted arrest and drove his vehicle forward, striking an officer, who has not been identified. 

Two officers then fired their service weapons and struck the Merrick, officials said, who was pronounced dead at the scene.

An autopsy has been conducted by the Iowa State Medical Examiner's Office, but officials did not release the results of it. Instead, Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation officials said they would forward the details to the Bremer County Attorney's Office for review.

Steckman questions Iowa House GOP plan for school funding

DES MOINES — Iowa’s K-12 public schools would get a 1 percent boost in state money in fiscal 2019 under a plan unveiled Wednesday by House Republicans. 

The $32 million hike that is less than Gov. Kim Reynolds sought but more than some educators say they expected given the state’s ongoing budget struggles.

“I think we’re making our best attempt to fund this and make this our continued priority,” said Rep. Cecil Dolecheck, R-Mount Ayr.

Dolecheck's comments came at the start of a process aimed at meeting requirements of setting school aid within 30 days of the governor's Jan. 9 recommendations. 

“The House caucus is committed to stand by this,” Dolecheck added. “This instills a commitment on the part of the Iowa House and the Republican majority that K-12 funding is our major priority. It will be the first thing out of the chute as far as the funding stream goes and we’re putting a considerable amount of money to that.”

Currently, the K-12 per-pupil cost statewide if $6,664, according to the Legislative Services Agency. A 1 percent increase in the state supplemental aid would boost that by $67 to $6,731 per pupil in fiscal 2019.

Sen. Amy Sinclair, R-Allerton, chair of the Senate Education Committee, said Senate Republicans had not yet finalized a state supplemental aid level for the upcoming school year, but she expected they would have a number to pass out of the full committee by Thursday.

Representatives of several education groups said they appreciate that K-12 funding has been “held harmless” the past two years when legislators had to trim funding commitments in other areas to keep the state budget balanced. They said Wednesday’s 1 percent increase from House Republicans was a pleasant surprise.

“While we continue to have concerns about funding for schools, 1 percent is certainly far above what we thought we would see going into this legislative session,” said Emily Piper of the Iowa Association of School Boards. “We appreciate the effort that you have put forward to find that funding.”

However, she added “no doubt it will still cause stress for many of our districts in terms of putting their budgets together.”

Sharon Steckman, D-Mason City, ranking education committee member, said 1 percent growth was inadequate, given state officials have projected revenue will grow by 4 percent during the 2019 fiscal year, while elementary and secondary schools go underfunded.

“I don’t see this as a priority. I think if it was a priority, it would show in our budget and it’s not showing,” said Steckman, who noted state aid to schools has been on a steady decline compared to expenses while state-funded tax credits “and giveaways are going straight up.”

“I appreciate you trying to get to 1 percent, I really do, but don’t tell me it’s a priority, because it’s not,” she added.

Brad Hudson of the Iowa State Education Association noted that a large number of K-12 school districts would be funded via a budget guarantee That supplements declining enrollments with money from local property taxes.

“I don’t think that’s saying that our kids or our public schools are our priority,” he said.

“We are cutting to the bone in a lot of districts,” added ISEA lobbyist Melissa Peterson.

Dolecheck said House Republicans tried but could not get to the governor’s number of 1.5 percent state supplemental aid and funding flexibility totaling $54 million.

He held out hope that up to $10 million in state money to assist in equalizing costs like transportation and other efforts to extend the school infrastructure sales tax could reach fruition this session, but right now it was too early to tell.

Sen. Joe Bolkcom, D-Iowa City, ranking member on the Senate Appropriations Committee, said majority Republicans appeared to be on a path to continue eighth consecutive years “of the lowest K-12 funding that we’ve seen over the 40-plus years of the school aid formula” with 1 percent growth likely meaning larger class sizes, delays in new textbook and technology purchases and possible layoffs.

“It’s going to be inadequate for what we hear from superintendents and teachers and parents about their needs for our schools,” Bolkcom said. “It’s likely going to just put more and more pressure. The clamps are going to get screwed down even tighter on local districts. Those districts that are struggling to stay afloat are probably going to be looking at whether they’re going to be in business or not or looking at layoffs or more consolidation.”