Clear Lake: History, Happiness, Home

Clear Lake, Iowa is a place some people would call the grave site of a music legend. Other’s would call it a vacation town. I call this place home.

ZZ Top Concert at The Surf in Oct. 2011

ZZ Top Concert at The Surf in Oct. 2011

Clear Lake is located in Central North Iowa and has a population of about 7,741. What the town is more recognized for is the Surf Ballroom and the crash site of the famous 1950s singers, Buddy Holly and Ritchie Valens, and The Big Bopper. Beth Ann Chilies of It’s Just Life, recently visited the Surf Ballroom and had the chance to take a step back into time. Anyone who is wanting to tour the building is able to during their normal business hours.

To most people, Clear Lake is just a “tourist town” but to me it’s home. I have so many memories that I will never forget and It’s really sad to see some of the iconic hangout places disappear. I understand that town’s have to grow with the times, but there are some things that have earned their right and deserve to stick around for may years to come.

Photo Credit: Ron Gerdes

Photo Credit: Ron Gerdes

I still remember the day that the Clearview Roller Rink closed. What were all the kids to do now? Another memory was the day that ‘The Ritz‘ restaurant burned down about 15 years ago. Talk about a tragedy! I lived about 3 miles away and I woke up on that day to a firefighter ringing our doorbell. I remember it clear as day, “Hi, I just wanted to let you know what we will be using the fire hydrant in front of your house for a few hours, so please use caution when leaving your house.” I of course asked what was going on and he went on to explain that it was burning down. I remember sitting out in the drive way in my swimsuit with my cousin in shock that one of my favorite restaurants was gone, forever.

It’s hard to see things that have so much history disappear so that is why I am writing this post. The Barrel Drive In, another iconic restaurant in Clear Lake is on the verge of shutting it’s doors. Well, that was until a very passionate person asked for help. His name is Seth Thackery. Seth was also born and raised in Clear Lake and has worked at the Barrel Drive-In since he was 16 years old. It’s a place that is so close to his heart that he decided to take the business over in 2007.

The Barrel Drive In (Aug. 20, 2014)

The Barrel Drive In (Aug. 20, 2014)

Seth has sent many years and a lot of his own money into fixing what’s wearing down but, he’s finding out that a lot of these problems can’t be simply fixed, and that they have to be completely replaced. He even considered selling the place to neighboring Casey’s General Store after they showed interest in buying the drive-in, but he learned that all they wanted to do was tear the building down and use the land for an expansion. This is what his fight or flight instincts came into play, and sought out help for his business.

Seth Thackery speaking to the #NIASocialMedia Breakfast Club on Aug. 20, 2014

Seth Thackery speaking to the #NIASocialMedia Breakfast Club on Aug. 20, 2014

Of course, rumors had been going around at what was going to happen, so when people heard of the possible closing, the Clear Lake community came together as one and started to rally along side of Seth.  Julie Wright, who is the owner of Executive Financial Architects and Michael Fiala, owner of Northern Iowa Internet & Creative Services awarded him a grant with up to $75,000 along with some business and marketing coaching. The public has been ask to donate more than just money, but with other  services such as assistance with repairs and other professional services like social media management. Along with the grand that Thackery received, he has also applied for a Restaurant Impossible make-over.

If he does get this makeover from this famous show, GREAT! But if he doesn’t, his dream still remains. Some of things he wants to do is update the kitchen, so it’s larger and more efficient and he hopes to add a soda fountain bar, which was a staple back in the ’50s. The smile on his face when he talks about his dreams and goals is simply amazing! As a Clear Lake native and someone who is fascinated by history, hearing him speak made me tear up with joy for him and the whole town.


Want to help #SaveTheBarrel? Well here are a few ways you can contribute:

  • First, click here to fill out the form on how you can help contribute.
  • Second, select how you can help out: Skilled Trades, General Volunteer, Professional Services, Other
  • Lastly, if you’d like to donate some money, you can select an option to have someone contact you to get more info.

Do you want to help Save the Barrel by talking about it online? Here are somethings you can do get the buzz out there.

Photo Credit: Sara Broers of Social Connection, LLC.

Photo Credit: Sara Broers of Social Connection, LLC.

  • Go to the Barrel Drive-In and have lunch or dinner.
    1. Take a picture of your food and post it on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and hashtag #SaveTheBarrel
    2. Take a video of you ordering via the speaker at your table. When was the last time you did or could do that?
  • Stop outside the Barrel and take a #selfie with the infamous chicken, Cooper.
    1. Make sure to use the hashtag #SelfiesWithCooper on Instagram, Twitter or Facebook.

So what are you waiting for? Head on over to and get some fried chicken! You can tell Seth that myself and the #NorthIowaBloggers sent you.

My fellow #NorthIowaBloggers:

Barrel Drive In on Urbanspoon

This is not a sponsored post. All the thoughts & opinions are my own.

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7 thoughts on “Clear Lake: History, Happiness, Home

  1. Another great post about The Barrel and you have the Local part of it down! Loved reading your memories of your home town, Amy! No wonder you love it—-it is full of history and wonderful things!!! Sometimes the things that are the best are right in our own town!


    • Thanks Beth Ann. This took me awhile to write, but I hope I got my feelings across. :) My best thoughts come in the shower and that’s the absolute worst place to try and take notes. LOL I just hope we can all help him out in some way, even if it just going and having supper there.


  2. A neat story! I sure hope his dreams are realized. Thanks to all who have helped in anyway. I have a fondness for Clear Lake since I am a November 2013 Graduate of World Wide College of Auctioneering. My attendance was a fulfillment of a dream I have had since I was a freshman in high school in 1967. I hope I am able to help out with some small financial assistance in the future.


    • Thanks Vernum! Clear Lake will always be home to me. I know every town has it’s history and that is what I love about traveling. And congrats on becoming an auctioneer in 2013. It’s truly a gift! :)


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