Visit Three Stars Plaza, the City Park that remembers Rock ‘n’ Roll icons Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens, and JP “The Big Bopper” Richardson.
As you travel along beautiful North Shore Drive, you’ll notice a futuristic-like structure near the iconic Surf Ballroom.
It’s not a bird, or a plane, and while it looks a bit like a UFO, I can assure you, it is not that either.
This one of a kind, 15-foot structure represents the heart and soul of Clear Lake… Rock ‘n Roll. The space, aptly named The Three Stars Plaza, is a tribute to our three fallen stars, Buddy Holly, J.P. The Big Bopper Richardson, and Ritchie Valens. The art feature was erected to honor the stars’ final performance at the Surf Ballroom before the tragic plan crash that took their lives on a snowy, winter night in February of 1959.
The unique feature for the Plaza came about years later, in August of 2008, when the Clear Lake City Council voted to purchase the North Shore Amoco Service Station. Having been abandoned for a few years, the dilapidated building had become a bit of an eyesore. As the Surf Ballroom attracts countless visitors from across the globe annually, having this rundown, empty business nearby was a concern due to the proximity of such a high-traffic tourist attraction.
Thus, the City Council voted to turn the space into a park – the most unique park in town, actually! One which honors the legacy of these music legends, keeping their story alive for rock ‘n roll fans to enjoy for years to come.
It was an extensive process, one with many intricate stages and intense collaboration to ensure it was built correctly and done with style. In 2009 RDG Planning & Design out of Des Moines created a conceptual plan for the area. The following year, Dean Snyder Construction in Clear Lake completed the park project. In 2011, Sukup Manufacturing in Sheffield fabricated the piece, which had been designed by David Dahlquist with the Dahlquist Art Studio based in Des Moines.
The structure itself is a unique piece, designed to pay homage to the Rock ‘n Roll legends. A spindle sits in the center of the Plaza, with three stacked records on top. If you stand directly under the records and look up, you’ll see the inscription of their names etched into the material. A few years after it was built, with funding from the Iowa great places grant program, the interactive music and audio feature was added. With just the push of a button, you can hear the story, listen to snippets of their songs, and learn about the legacy of these music icons and how they shaped the music industry forever.
At night, the Plaza is illuminated in the glow of blue neon from the structure. A subtle reminder that the music lives on in Clear Lake. It beats in the hearts of our many residents, and is kept alive by the countless visitors who pay homage to these three fallen stars.