- Associated Press - Sunday, February 2, 2014

CLEAR LAKE, Iowa (AP) - A passion for the Surf Ballroom and live music has kept Clear Lake’s Jeff Nicholas involved with the Surf for more than 20 years.

“I get goosebumps every time I walk in the building,” Nicholas told the Globe Gazette (http://bit.ly/M6ENBG).

Nicholas is the president of the three-member board of directors of the North Iowa Cultural Center & Museum, the nonprofit entity which runs the Surf Ballroom.

The other board members are Shane Cooney and Paul Stevenson, also of Clear Lake.

Nicholas, Cooney and Stevenson stepped forward in 2007 to take over the planning of what was then called the Fifties in February celebration.

The event, now known as the Winter Dance Party, honors the memory of Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens and J.P. “The Big Bopper” Richardson.

The musicians and their pilot, Roger Peterson, were killed Feb. 3, 1959, when their plane crashed north of Clear Lake after an appearance at the ballroom.

However, Nicholas‘ first visit to the Surf wasn’t music-related. He helped out with a spring boat show at the Surf while in high school in 1974.

Besides his current volunteer position, Nicholas managed the building from 1994-96.

What makes the Surf special to him?

“It’s a combination of the bricks and mortar, what’s happened here over history. It’s the people. It’s the relationships,” he said.

“The Surf has always given me more than I’ve given back to it. So I am kind of an emotional guy. I love this town. I love this building and all the friendships and relationships and memories that it has given me.”

His dedication to the Surf draws praise.

Jeff’s passion for the venue and the music that lives here (at the Surf) is truly evident in the countless volunteer hours that he dedicates each year,” said Laurie Lietz, executive director of the Surf Ballroom. “His leadership goals place emphasis on the long-term viability of the Surf and he works hard to make ‘big picture’ things happen. Without Jeff’s vision, I’m certain that our nonprofit wouldn’t enjoy the many successes that we’ve achieved.”

Nicholas, Cooney and Stevenson work closely to keep the Surf growing and relevant.

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