Tonight is the 54th anniversary of the 1959 Winter Dance Party concert in Clear Lake, Iowa. 54 years ago tomorrow a plane crashed carrying early rock and roll pioneers Buddy Holly, Richie Valens the Big Bopper and their pilot Roger Peterson soon after takeoff from the Mason City airport. The small plane came to rest in a farm field (near this wire fence) just northeast of Clear Lake. Directions to the site can be found here.
These photos are from July 2012 when I traveled to Clear Lake to see firsthand what the site is all about. I discovered the plane crash location is open to the public and is marked with coins, glasses, candles, flowers, liquor bottles, clothes and paper tributes - all from fans. The trail to the crash site is marked by huge iconic Buddy Holly glasses resting on two concrete posts. About a quarter mile into the field along the wire fence is a conglomeration of memorials to the musicians and pilot where the plane came to rest.
After visitors left the site I stayed to photograph the area in more detail. It was a bit odd to be the only person at the site, surrounded by tall corn, blowing wind and soaring temperatures nearing 100 F. I didn't hear any voices or music in the corn but definitely was aware of the historical surroundings and lives lost.
On the north shore of Clear Lake, the Surf Ballroom is still a vibrant part of the entertainment scene. It regularly attracts national acts as was evident during the time I visited. Tonight actor Gary Busey who played Buddy Holly in The Buddy Holly Story will be at the Surf's screening of the 1978 movie.