(Photos by Kelly Meyer and Jody Spear) –
CLEAR LAKE, IA– Clear Lake is immortalizing its place in rock’ n roll history in stainless steel, concrete and blue neon lights.
On Thursday evening, the city dedicated the new Three Stars Plaza near the Surf Ballroom.
An original work of art representing a giant record player spindle and three 45 rpm records, stacked on top of each other honors the fateful final performance of Buddy Holly, J.P. “The Big Bopper” Richardson and Ritchie Valens.
The trio along with pilot Roger Peterson died in a plane crash North of Clear Lake a short time after the show in early February of 1959.
During the event, family members were presented with copies of new street signs.
Buddy Holly Place is being re-dedicated, and North Shore Drive, in front of the Surf is receiving the honorary designation of Richie Valens Drive and 7th Avenue North on the West side of the Surf will be known as J.P. Richardson Avenue.
Valens sisters, Connie Valens Lemos and Irma Norton joined Richardson’s son J.P. Richardson Jr. for the ceremony.
Maria Elena Holly, widow of Buddy Holly, is ill and was being advised by her doctor not to fly, according to Shane Cooney with the Surf. He is hopeful that Holly will be able to come to the annual Winter Dance Party event next February.
“Today we add yet another link to this chain of remembrance, to three young men whose lives were taken, but through them I believe that the world is a better place. May we continue to dance to their music,” said Valens Lemos.
Richardson couldn’t help but note the difference between how his father is remembered in his hometown of Beaumont, Texas and in Clear Lake.
“As I stand here today, this is the third memorial that your city has done in my father’s name.”
“That’s cause we love you,” shouted someone from the audience.
“Thank you, love you too,” said Richardson. “This is a feel-good speech, but I want Beaumont to feel really bad about that. And I want Clear Lake to feel really good, I really do, you are wonderful, God bless you, thank you.”
Richardson also loaned a briefcase belonging to his father to the Surf Ballroom and Museum for display.
The briefcase was recovered from the crash site and is the same one that Richardson, Jr. held up during his performance at the 50th anniversary Winter Dance Party weekend event at the Surf in 2009.
The spindle sculpture in the new plaza about a half block from the Surf stands 15 feet tall and is made of cast Iron. The three platters are 10 feet in diameter and cut from 1/4” stainless steel. The bottom of the lower platter features the illuminated names of Holly, Richardson and Valens. The platters are ringed by blue rope neon lighting. The inner perimeter of the circular shaped memorial is also trimmed with blue lighting.
Steve and Vickie Sukup of Clear Lake donated the labor and materials which are estimated to be worth more than $40,000.
Steve Sukup said the one of a kind creation took about 10 weeks for his craftsman at Sukup Manufacturing to produce.
He was captivated by the design which he felt “really tied in the Surf, ties in the message of the Valens family, Richardson and the Buddy Holly story of putting it together.”
Sukup has also enjoyed hearing the comments of people walking up and down North Shore Avenue. “People stopping and saying ‘hey what a great item, it’s really going to become an icon, a focus point for Clear Lake.’”
Future plans include a speakers for a sound system and buttons on the spindle that will allow fans to make a selection if they want to hear a song performed by either Holly, Richardson or Valens.
“I just want people to know that my dad was much more than a one hit wonder.” – JP Richardson