ARNOLDS PARK, Iowa -- The hundreds of inductees in the Iowa Rock 'n' Roll Hall of Fame are now showcased in a beautiful new space honoring their contributions to music.
The revamped and expanded hall recently reopened in the building that also houses the Iowa Great Lakes Maritime Museum. The museums are part of the entertainment complex in Arnolds Park.
The Rock 'n' Roll Hall of Fame previously was in the former Roof Garden, an open-air complex next to the Arnolds Park amusement park. That version of the Roof Garden was demolished last May during the multimillion-dollar "Restore the Park" campaign to make way for the new Roof Garden, which has the appearance of the historic ballroom.
Maddi Tesch, the rock museum's administrator, said officials spent months preparing the new space. Outside consultants were brought in to help design it.
"That process actually didn't get started until January," she said.
The new, interactive museum features three times more space than the prior version, which opened in 1997. Exhibits feature photos, memorabilia and videos from bands, musicians and radio personalities. An interactive screen also allows visitors to watch artists' touring dates as they approached playing at the historic Roof Garden.
"The interesting thing about the Roof Garden was, it's kind of in the middle of all these tours that came through, so while they were on their way to Chicago maybe or another bigger part of the Midwest, they stopped at the Roof Garden," Tesch said.
Highlights include recording equipment from Iowa music studios, contracts to perform at the Roof Garden (signed by the likes of Johnny Cash and Roy Orbison) and a bright red suit worn on stage by the late Tommy Bolin, a Sioux City native and guitarist for such bands as Deep Purple and the James Gang. Visitors might notice how small the suit is.
"He was very tiny," Tesch said.
Two attendees who had a blast at the museum Saturday were 92-year-old retired math teacher Richard "Dick" Morris and his daughter, Deb Morris. The pair made a surprise stop at the museum during what she called "our out and about day."
Dick Morris had danced at the old Roof Garden as early as the 1940s (before the days of rock 'n' roll) and Arnolds Park was a favorite leisure destination for the family. He recounted getting punished for skipping school to go to the Roof Garden.
"We paid the penalty," he said.
After his marriage in 1950, he and his wife went on a honeymoon to Minneapolis. After that trip, finding they still had $5 left to spend, Morris decided they should go to Arnolds Park to have fun with the leftover money.
"We went to the Roof Garden, and they were dancing -- good music!" the elder Morris said.
The price, to quote the old Ruth Etting song, was "10 cents a dance" -- for a dime, Morris and his wife got one dance, and for another dance, they had to shell out another dime.
Deb Morris also has fond memories of Arnolds Park and the old Roof Garden, which was razed in 1988. She once saw The Monkees play the Roof Garden.
"I had some great times," she said.
Tesch said Iowa has a rich history with rock 'n' roll -- during the heyday of the old Roof Garden, ballrooms were an amusement fixture throughout the state and famous acts frequently stopped to play at them.
"Pretty much every county had a ballroom, sometimes two," she said. The Roof Garden once attracted major names like Sam the Sham and the Pharaohs, The Yardbirds and The Byrds.
Iowa musicians soon got in on the act -- John Senn, the museum's founder and CEO, was a member of the group Dee Jay and the Runaways, which had a hit in 1966 with the song "Peter Rabbit."
"Everybody knows that song," Tesch said.
Nominations for next year's Iowa Rock 'n' Roll Hall of Fame inductees are currently being accepted; the decision for next year is made toward the end of this year.
To be considered, an artist has to have been on the scene for at least 25 years; they have to have a lasting legacy in the Iowa rock 'n' roll scene; and musicians cannot nominate themselves.
There currently are roughly 400 hundred bands or individuals artists in the Hall of Fame. Tesch said the more inductees there are, the more visitors are bound to come to see the museum.
"We induct bands all over the state of Iowa, so it's definitely a personal thing for some people, because they're like, 'Oh I had a grandfather' or 'I had an uncle' or somebody who's been inducted into the Hall of Fame," she said.