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NEWS 1.22.21: C-19 Updates, IA Guard Controversy, Surf Ballroom Honor, & More

Iowa Department of Public Health

SPM NEWS 1.22.21 - 4:32PM

The Iowa Department of Public Health reports the deaths of 33 more Iowans from COVID-19, including four more deaths in Woodbury County, for 181 in all. There were more than 1,300 positive test results statewide, and 18 in Woodbury County.

The 14-day test positivity rate for Woodbury County has fallen to 10.5%. That rate still indicates wide community spread.

Credit Siouxland District Health

For the first time since releasing weekly COVID-19 updates, the Sioux City Community School District reported no new cases of COVID-19 among students or staff members. However, more than 190 students are in quarantine with 24 students and a dozen staff currently out of school due to the illness. This was the first week students returned to full-time in-person learning since the start of the school year.

Credit Sioux City Community Schools

Nebraska residents who are younger than 65 years old and considered healthy may have to wait another four months to get the coronavirus vaccine based on current distributions.

State health officials and Gov. Pete Ricketts say they’re receiving 94,000 vaccinations a month from the federal government.

Nebraska has been vaccinating front-line health care workers and people with ties to long-term care facilities.

Credit Associated Press

Under the state’s distribution plan, the next in line are an estimated 500,000 residents who are at least 65 years old or have certain health conditions. State officials predict that 75% of that group will get a vaccine. That translates into a four-month wait for everyone else unless Nebraska starts receiving more shipments.

A Des Moines television station is reporting Governor Kim Reynolds is calling Iowa National Guard troops home from Washington, D.C.

The governor says a move by U.S. Capitol Police to move soldiers to a cold parking garage with few restrooms was disrespectful, unconscionable, and should have never happened.

The 185th Air National Guard flew the soldiers to the nation’s capitol to help with security. 

For the first time in ten months, students at Kennedy High School in Cedar Rapids were able to return to the classroom this week. The school was heavily damaged during last summer’s derecho, with 75 to 80 percent of the roof needing to be replaced or repaired. 

In the months since, Principal Jason Kline says that students, faculty and staff have handled the storm and the pandemic exceptionally well.

“It’s a situation where I think everyone just accepted what they had to deal with and fought through it. And I’m just exceptionally proud of the work they’ve done.”

Coronavirus protocols like a mask mandate are in place at the school as in-person learning resumes. Some last remaining exterior construction projects will continue this spring.

OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — Nebraska lawmakers have rejected a new effort to require a public vote when they choose legislative leaders, despite a push from some conservative senators for transparency. Lawmakers voted 30-19 against the motion to change the Legislature’s internal rules. Committee chairs and the speaker of the Legislature are elected through a secret ballot. Supporters of the 50-year-old system say it minimizes the influence of partisanship in the officially nonpartisan Legislature, allowing lawmakers to elect the person they consider most-qualified for the job without pressure to vote for a member of their own party. Critics counter that the system encourages backroom deals and vote-trading from senators who are trying to win a chairmanship.

OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — Nebraska’s chief Supreme Court justice says the courts faced a big challenge due to the coronavirus pandemic but continue to serve the public with the use of technology. Justice Michael Heavican says the pandemic has forced courts to turn to livestreaming and video chatting services to keep proceedings accessible. Heavican says the court’s online payment systems allowed residents to pay traffic tickets and court fines without leaving their homes, and the judiciary also offers an online education system to help judges, lawyers, guardians and others meet continuous education requirements. In Dawson County, one judge is broadcasting court proceedings on YouTube.

RAPID CITY, S.D. (AP) — Donald Trump’s presidency ended just two days ago, but the City of Presidents organization is already working on adding his statue in downtown Rapid City. Dallerie Davis, co-founder and artist liaison for the organization, says the project is in the concept stage and that they plan to incorporate a couple of Trump’s distinctive trademarks _ his unusual hairstyle and tweeting, one of his preferred methods of communication. A location has not yet been selected for the nation’s 45th president. Davis said the City of Presidents has more than 80 street corners to pick. The organization has not announced the artist who will create the bronze statue.

SD governor gave Trump bust with face on Mount Rushmore

PIERRE, S.D. (AP) — South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem says she gave former president Donald Trump a $1,100 bust depicting the president on Mount Rushmore last year because she knew it was something he wanted to receive. The gift was presented to Trump when he visited South Dakota on July 3 for an Independence Day fireworks celebration. The Mount Rushmore miniature stood 4 feet (1.3 meters) and depicted Trump enshrined alongside former presidents George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt and Abraham Lincoln. Noem said the money came from private donations she solicited because it was something she knew he would find “special.”

The jackpot for the Mega Millions lottery game has grown to nearly $1 billion ahead of Friday night’s drawing after more than four months without a winner. That record drought is thanks to bad luck, poor odds and reduced play partially blamed on the coronavirus pandemic. It’s only the third time a lottery jackpot has grown so large, but much has changed since the last time such a big prize was up for grabs in 2018. And even as the huge Mega Millions prize and a $731.1 million Powerball jackpot won Wednesday by a single ticket sold in Maryland have juiced sales for the games, Maryland lottery director Gordon Medenica noted: “We’re not out of the woods yet.”

CLEAR LAKE, Iowa (AP) — A north-central Iowa venue best known for hosting the last concert of Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens and J.P. “The Big Bopper” Richardson before the trio died in a 1959 plane crash is now a National Historic Landmark. The Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs announced in a release Friday that the Surf Ballroom in Clear Lake had earned the designation from the U.S. Department of the Interior. National Historic Landmarks are buildings, sites, districts, structures and objects that have been determined to be nationally significant in American history and culture. The ballroom’s nomination was officially approved on Jan. 13.

Surf Ballroom Designated a National Historic Landmark

DES MOINES – The U.S. Department of the Interior has designated the Surf Ballroom in Clear Lake, Iowa, as a National Historic Landmark, recognizing its enduring role in the history of American music. The ballroom is best known for hosting the last concert of Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens and J.P. “The Big Bopper” Richardson before their fatal plane crash in the early hours of Feb. 3, 1959, a date Don McLean immortalized as “the day the music died” in his 1971 hit “American Pie.”

National Historic Landmarks are buildings, sites, districts, structures, and objects that have been determined to be nationally significant in American history and culture. The ballroom’s nomination was officially approved on Jan. 13.

“The Surf Ballroom is a national treasure. You can almost feel the energy and hear the echoes of all the concerts over the years,” said Chris Kramer, who directs the Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs. “The soundtrack of the 20th century played live, right here in Clear Lake, Iowa.”

As the most significant and well-preserved venue remaining on the 1959 Winter Dance Party Tour, the ballroom represents the nationwide dance-party tour phenomenon, a trend that helped establish touring as a legitimate business within the music industry.

"The Surf exemplifies a pivotal time in music history, one that should be honored and celebrated,” noted Laurie Lietz, the ballroom's executive director. “It is our organization’s highest honor to achieve this designation, and we know this will ensure that the music lives on here at the Surf for generations to come.” 

The ballroom is operated by the nonprofit North Iowa Cultural Center and Museum, whose president, Jeff Nicholas, discussed its mission to celebrate the lives and legacies not only of Holly, Valens and Richardson, but all the musicians who have taken a turn on the ballroom’s stage.

“As long as the Surf Ballroom is here,” he said, “their music will never die.”

The Surf Ballroom is open to visitors year-round and operates as a concert venue with events for up to 2,100 guests. For a full schedule of events and details about how to help keep the music alive, visit www.surfballroom.com.

The Surf Ballroom is Iowa's 27th National Historic Landmark, joining a list of such iconic sites as the American Gothic House, the gold-domed State Capitol, and the Sergeant Floyd Monument, which received the country's first National Historic Landmark, in 1960. The National Historic Landmarks program is managed in Iowa by the State Historic Preservation Office, a bureau of the Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs.


The Surf Ballroom opened on July 1, 1948, on the north shore of Clear Lake and replaced an earlier ballroom that had burned down the year before.

The venue offered musicians a convenient stop to perform between Minneapolis and Des Moines but gradually became a destination in its own right, attracting early 20th century stars such Count Basie, Duke Ellington and the Dorsey Brothers before a parade of more recent legends: The Everly Brothers, Little Richard, The Beach Boys, B.B. King, Conway Twitty, Santana, REO Speedwagon, ZZ Top, Martina McBride, Alice Cooper, Robert Plant and countless others.

The ballroom became famous worldwide in 1959, when it was the twelfth and final stop on what was scheduled to be a 25-city Winter Dance Party Tour of the Upper Midwest featuring Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens and J.P. “The Big Bopper” Richardson. After their concert in Clear Lake, however, the three musicians and the pilot died when their plane crashed amid a snowstorm on the morning of Feb. 3, 1959.

The death of these three influential young musicians shook the nation and changed the course of rock and roll, as well as the broader sweep of American pop culture.

The Surf Ballroom is an excellent and well-preserved example of the Moderne style of architecture. The building’s clean lines, curvilinear forms, minimal ornament and use of chrome illustrate the aesthetic influence that technology and the machine clearly had on the Moderne style. 

In 2009, the Surf Ballroom was designated as a historic landmark by the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland, Ohio.

Today, the ballroom continues to host an annual Winter Dance Party every February, as well as dozens of concerts and special events throughout the year.


There are approximately 2,600 National Historic Landmarks in the United States, including 26 others in Iowa, as well as Mount Vernon, Pearl Harbor, the Apollo Mission Control Center, Alcatraz and Martin Luther King's Birthplace. Learn more about National Historic Landmarks online

Sheila Brummer returns to her radio roots as a Reporter/Special Projects Producer for Siouxland Public Media KWIT-KOJI.
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