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Can You Visit the Buddy Holly Crash Site?

There is a long list of musicians who unexpectedly performed their last show far too early in their careers. Buddy Holly was 22 years old when this list added his name.

Despite 60+ years since Buddy’s passing, fans still honor his life and how he changed the music industry. So can you visit the Buddy Holly crash site? Let’s look and see!

Who is Buddy Holly?

Buddy Holly was an American musician often credited as one of the most significant influences on modern rock music. He rose to popularity in the 1950s with his songs “Everyday,” “Peggy Sue,” and “That’ll Be The Day.” If it weren’t for Buddy’s unique approach to creating music and writing lyrics, rock music wouldn’t be what it is today. 

What Happened to Buddy Holly?

Following a show on February 3, 1959, musicians Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens, and J.P. Richardson hopped on a plane with pilot Roger Peterson. The flight took off from Mason City Municipal Airport at 12:55 am for Fargo, North Dakota. Unfortunately, the plane would never reach Fargo, and the accident rocked the music industry with devastating news.

Hubert Jerry Dwyer, the owner of the charter service for the flight, made several repeated attempts to contact the pilot, Roger Peterson. However, all attempts failed. It wasn’t until the following day when Dwyer had still not heard from the pilot, that he retraced the route. Not long after takeoff, he discovered the crash site and the remaining wreckage.

All passengers and the plane’s pilot died in the accident, including Buddy Holly. While the rest of the band was traveling via bus to the next show, Carroll Anderson, the manager who offered Holly’s crew the opportunity to perform at the Surf Ballroom, had to identify the bodies.

People later referred to the tragedy as “The Day the Music Died” when Don McLean referenced it in his 1971 song “American Pie.”

Where Is the Buddy Holly Crash Site?

The Buddy Holly crash site is five miles north of Clear Lake, Iowa. Music fans can park near the corner of 315th Street and Gull Avenue to access the site. You can find a large set of Buddy Holly-style glasses at the start of the walking path. Accessing the crash site requires walking approximately a quarter of a mile. There’s a small memorial where the plane rested after the accident.

Can You Visit the Buddy Holly Crash Site?

You can visit the Buddy Holly crash site and pay your respects to Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens, J.P. Richardson, and Roger Peterson. Visiting the area during the winter and spring can be challenging due to weather conditions. However, summer and fall can be the perfect time to honor the lives of these individuals.

Pro Tip: Music lovers will love listening to these 10 Country Songs About the Road.

Microphone on stage
Buddy Holly will continue to be known for his contribution to the music industry.

Things to Know About Buddy Holly Crash Site

If you want to visit the Buddy Holly crash site, there are several things you should know first. This can help you make the most of your time and experience all the community does to honor the lives of those involved in the tragedy.

How to Find the Crash Site

Finding the Buddy Holly crash site is relatively straightforward but requires some walking. You’ll want to start by going north on North 8th Street out of Clear Lake for approximately 4.7 miles. The road eventually goes into Grouse Avenue and turns west. From there, take 310th Street north towards Gull Avenue.

After approximately half a mile, Gull Avenue and 315th Street create a T-intersection, and you’ll see a set of framed glasses similar to what Buddy Holly wore. You can park along the road and walk by the fence row for approximately a quarter of a mile. You’ll see a small memorial that honors the lives of all the individuals in the accident, including Buddy Holly.

Many Fans Leave a Gift

Fans often leave all kinds of gifts to honor those in the crash. It’s not uncommon to see flowers, American flags, or spare change near the memorial. The community monitors and maintains the memorial. People frequently visit the site despite it being 60+ years since the accident.

Plane crash sight
While in Iowa, it is possible to visit the plane crash site where the music died.

Don’t Miss the Three Buddy Holly Monuments

You can find several monuments honoring Buddy Holly’s life and contributions to the music industry. The Surf Ballroom erected a memorial in 1988 as the site of Buddy Holly’s final performance. The monument at the Surf Ballroom is a four-foot piece of granite with the names of all four individuals who died in the accident.

The second memorial is at the crash site, a stainless-steel structure that looks like a guitar. Ken Paquette created the monument in 1989 and inscribed the names of the three musicians on the memorial.

The entrance to the walking path to the crash site is home to a structure that resembles a pair of Buddy Holly’s famous glasses. Ken Paquette also made this monument, and it wasn’t his last. He created a memorial for The Riverside Ballroom, the site of the second to last show for the group. It features statues of the three artists performing. Visiting these monuments is a way to honor the lives of these musicians.

You Can Relive the Final Tour

If you enjoy Buddy Holly’s music, John Mueller’s “Winter Dance Party” is an incredible experience. This live concert recreates the final performance by the artists and includes two hours of high-voltage entertainment. You’ll hear many of the hits that made Buddy Holly famous. You can check John Mueller’s schedule for the most up-to-date list of shows.

Visit the Buddy Holly Museum

The Surf Ballroom is home to the Buddy Holly Museum. While the museum and ballroom are open year-round, they adjust their operating hours seasonally. There is a suggested $5 donation per person for the self-guided tour. However, staff and volunteers are highly knowledgeable and can answer guests’ questions during their visit.

Pro Tip: If you love attending music festivals, the Fairhope Music Festival is the Ideal Fall Road Trip to Alabama.

Pay Your Respects to a Pioneer of Rock and Roll 

February 3, 1959, was a sad day for the music industry. When the plane carrying Buddy Holly and two other musicians went down outside Clear Lake, Iowa, it was a tragedy. The world lost four lives that day, and the loved ones close to these individuals were left in pain. If you’re passing through the area, take the time to pay your respects and introduce the next generation to the music of Buddy Holly.

What is your favorite Buddy Holly song? Would you visit any of his memorials? 

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