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CLEAR LAKE - They came in chiffon scarves and poodle skirts, black horn-rimmed glasses and saddle shoes.

And that was just the teachers.

The approximately 800 Clear Lake elementary students who also attended the annual Rockin' Kids Show Friday at the Surf Ballroom dressed to the nines in '50s garb.

"This is fun. It's a lot of fun," said Jeff Nicholas, president of the North Iowa Cultural Center and Museum Inc., as kindergarten through sixth grade students filed into the ballroom ready to dance. "This is one of the highlights of the weekend for us."

The program is held annually to help future generations understand the significance of the Winter Dance Party, Nicholas said.

The John Mueller Winter Dance Party traveled overnight from Watertown, S.D., to be in Clear Lake in time for the kids show, Nicholas said.

"It's as close as you'll ever get to hearing Buddy Holly," he said of the three-piece band.

Nicholas later told the students of the tragic events of Feb. 3, 1959, when three rising rock 'n' roll stars died in a plane crash after playing at the Surf.

"Back in 1959, the biggest stars in rock 'n' roll came to play here," Nicholas said to the students, seated on the ballroom floor.

"Our mission at the Surf is to make sure that the music never dies."

The students watched video footage of Buddy Holly, J.P. "The Big Bopper" Richardson and Ritchie Valens performing their hit songs. Slides of the three performers were shown in a presentation about "Three Stars" that appeared in the heavens the night they were killed.

"It's our mission to see that the three stars that performed here that night will always shine," Nicholas said.

Nichole Barragy, education coordinator of the Surf Ballroom and Museum, presented awards to the winners of the Winter Dance Party art contest for each grade.

Jilian Heitland, a sixth- grade student, won the Outstanding Award for a model Fifties Juke Box she made that was displayed on the stage.

A winning video by sixth-grader Carson Meyer depicting the life of Buddy Holly was presented.

Tate Storbeck, 10, presented a picture he had made of Ritchie Valens to Valens' sister, Connie Lemos, who had asked if she could take the picture home.

J.P. Richardson, Jr., son of "The Big Bopper," told the students the Surf "is a very special place to me."

"You young folks have a wonderful history here that will live long after we're all gone."




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