About The Surf Speaks

In September 2015, The Surf Speaks: Voices of a Living History was created by twin sisters Sheryl and Sherry Davis as a new research initiative dedicated to recording and preserving the memories of the historic Surf Ballroom's "February Family," the stalwart guardians of its Winter Dance Party legacy. Since 1979, rock and roll fans from around the world have made the pilgrimage to Clear Lake, Iowa, to celebrate the lives and legacies of rock and roll pioneers Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens and J.P. Richardson ("The Big Bopper"), who gave their final career performances at the Surf on February 2, 1959. 


As an inaugural field study and crowdsourced history project, The Surf Speaks documented the relationship between this iconic venue and its fans within the context of the 2016 Winter Dance Party. By writing their own chapter in the continuing story of rock and roll, the extraordinary and impassioned voices of the February Family contributed their personal accounts to create the first record of a Winter Dance Party commemorative event.


The Surf Speaks is also an original ambition to frame the broader topic of the music fan's significant yet unheralded role in the preservation and relevance of popular music landmarks. It explores through the lens of the February Family how personal life experiences, emotional attachments to place and associated feelings of musical and environmental nostalgia motivate and sustain these efforts. As a case study, this project adds further credibility to growing public support for changes in historic preservation policies and practices that acknowledge the importance of these intangible values. 








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Project Support


  • Surf Ballroom and Museum 

  • Iowa Rock and Roll Music Association

  • Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum

  • National Trust for Historic Preservation



"Another emerging view in the preservation community is that the focus since 1966 has been on physical resources and their preservation, with insufficient attention to the cultural values and traditions—the 'intangible' aspects of heritage—associated with properties. The 'why' of preservation matters just as much as the 'what' and the 'how.'"     - Advisory Council for Historic Preservation, The National Historic Preservation Program at 50: Challenges and Opportunities (National Historic Preservation Act 50th Anniversary in 2016)