The Surf Ballroom in Clear Lake.

The Surf Ballroom in Clear Lake.

The largest-ever reunion of Crickets band members highlights this year’s Winter Dance Party at the Surf Ballroom in Clear Lake.

The annual event honors the lives of Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens and “The Big Bopper” J. P. Richardson, who performed on the Surf stage on February 3rd, 1959, before dying in a plane crash northwest of the Mason City Airport.

Surf Ballroom executive director Laurie Lietz says the Saturday night feature will be a tribute to the Crickets’ original bass player, Joe B. Mauldin, who died last February. She says it’s been a lot of fun putting the event together. Mauldin’s widow and two daughters will be attending the event for the first time.

The current Crickets: Jerry Allison, Glenn Hardin and Sonny Curtis will be joined by former members Tommy Allsup, Gordon Payne, Albert Lee, Tonio K. and Keith Allison. Events got underway Wednesday night with the annual family sock hop. The lineup Thursday included The Tailfins, The Coasters, Tommy Allsup, and Martha Reeves and the Vandellas. Tonight’s schedule includes the Johnny Rogers Band, the Holy Rocka Rollaz and Flash Cadillac.

Besides the Crickets reunion, Lietz says Saturday night will also feature other live performances. Lietz says Wanda Jackson is on her final tour which includes a stop in Clear Lake. She’ll be joined by Jason D. Williams and Matthew & Gunnar Nelson with a tribute to their father Ricky Nelson. Fans of the fallen rockers will converge on Clear Lake from all over the United States as well as from overseas, including a large group that always comes as part of the British Buddy Holly Society. Lietz says it’s interesting to watch the different relationships that have formed because of the plane crash and the annual Winter Dance Party.

She says one of the things she’ll remember is standing in the doorway of her office and watching the Valens family, the Big Bopper’s son and Holly’s widow, Maria Elena, hug and reminisce, as they have their own friendship too because of the tragedies. Besides the performances there are a number of other events throughout Clear Lake this weekend. For details, visit:

(Reporting by Bob Fisher, KRIB, Mason City)