Clear Lake is a city in Cerro Gordo County of north central Iowa, with a population of 7,777, per the 2010 census. Clear Lake is named because of it’s large lake at the base of the town. Considered a major stop on the intersection of Interstate 35 and Highway 18, it is home to two area state parks, several marinas, historical destinations, and tourism-related businesses.
Clear Lake is perhaps most-known for “The Day the Music Died.” On February 3, 1959, a small aircraft carrying Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens, and The Big Bopper, who had performed at the Surf Ballroom in Clear Lake the night before, crashed shortly after takeoff from the Mason City Municipal Airport.
Along with the 7,777 people within the city, which drastically grows during the tourist-friendly months, there are 3,507 households and 2,087 families in Clear Lake. Clear Lake has a racial makeup of 96.3% White, 0.5% African-American, 0.1% Native American, 1.2% Asian, 0.5% from other races, 1.4% from two-or-more races, and 2.2% Hispanic/Latino. Of the 3,507 households, 25% had children under the age of 18 living with them and 47.9% were married couples. The median age was 46.3 years.
- Central Gardens of North Iowa – public garden and green space located on 2.5 acres near downtown.
- Clear Lake Fire Museum – 1924 Ahrens-Fox pumper truck, hand-pulled hose cart, original fire bell all on display.
- Clear Lake Arts Center – non-profit organization displaying local and regional artists’ work; art classes and sales gallery also available.
- Iowa Trolley Park Railroad Museum – educational, interpretive, and interactive railroad museum.
- Lady of the Lake – stern wheeler ferry boat taking passengers on scenic cruise around the lake.
- PM Park – site of the original Patriarch Militants camp established in 1914, now a eating and lodging venue.
- Surf Ballroom – site of Buddy Holly’s last concert; continues to have periodical concerts. Can be reserved as convention hall or reception site. “Winter Dance Party” held every February as tribute to Buddy Holly.
- Three Stars Plaza – featuring central art sculpture consisting of spindle with stacked records honoring Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens, and J.P. “The Big Bopper” Richardson.