“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”
“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”

Eau Claire in Eau Claire County, Wisconsin — The American Midwest (Great Lakes)

Fournier's Dancing Academy and Ballroom

Fun on a Famous Floor

Fournier's Dancing Academy and Ballroom Marker image. Click for full size.
By K. Linzmeier, May 4, 2014
1. Fournier's Dancing Academy and Ballroom Marker
Inscription.  Poodle skirts, crew cuts, soda pop, and rock 'n roll! Fournier's Ballroom in the 1950s and 60s was the regional hot spot for entertainment. Longtime area residents still speak fondly of their memories of northwestern Wisconsin's largest dance floor where sometimes over 1,000 enthusiasts would be - in the words of the time - "rockin' and a rollin', boppin' and a strollin' at the hop!"

World-class performers of the Fabulous Fifties included Conway Twitty, Bobby Darin, The Everley Brothers, Del Shannon, and Gene Vincent. Best remembered is the Winter Dance Party of January 26, 1959, when the legendary Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens, the Big Bopper, and Dion & The Belmonts shared the stage. A week later, Holly, Valens, and the Big Bopper died in a plane crash after playing the Surf Ballroom in Clear Lake, Iowa.

By the 60s skirts were shorter, hair was longer, and popular bands included The Thundermen, The Intruders, The Showman, The Shandells, Doc and the Interns, Crosstown Trafficque, The Renditions, Stormy Monday Blues, Carnaby Street, and The Exchange. Mickey Lynnes of The Thundermen remarked that, "Playing at Fournier's
Fournier's Dancing Academy and Ballroom Marker image. Click for full size.
By K. Linzmeier, May 4, 2014
2. Fournier's Dancing Academy and Ballroom Marker
meant you were the best in town."

Much earlier, Fournier's hosted some of the biggest names of the big band era including Glen Miller, Tommy Dorsey, Guy Lombardo, Wayne King, and Lawrence Welk. Regional and local bands playing the big band sound and polkas included such performers as Frankie Yankovic, The Six Fat Dutchman, The Rhythm Playboys, The Frank Switzer Orchestra, and The Howie Sturtz Orchestra. Local bandleader, Conrad Johnstad, was drawn to Fournier's even as a boy. One memorable day in the late 1930s, he stood alone by the bandstand. The trumpet player beckoned, "Come here, boy," and seated him next to the drummer. The trumpet player? Louis Armstrong!

Opened by Wenceslas (Mons) Fournier around 1900 as Fournier's Dancing Academy and Ballroom, the facility catered to formal events during the first 25 years. Prior to Fournier's, the circa 1887 building had been home to such enterprises as Griffin Rifles Armory from which soldiers departed the City for the Spanish American War. After the death of Fournier in 1926, the business was left in trust to Lou Fournier, whose driving spirit and love of music brought success to Fournier's Ballroom until her death in 1968.

By the 1970s, advancing technology gave society more entertainment options and the popularity of ballroom dancing waned. Fournier's Ballroom closed its doors February 27, 1971, and
Fournier's Dancing Academy and Ballroom Marker image. Click for full size.
By K. Linzmeier, May 4, 2014
3. Fournier's Dancing Academy and Ballroom Marker
by December the building was gone. For many, Fournier's Ballroom lives on in memories of meeting friends in a very special place and dancing to the rhythms of their favorite bands during a star-dusted time when it seemed as if the whole world was young and in love.

Sponsored by:
David and Jean Mickelson and Family

Erected 2006 by The Eau Claire Landmarks Commission; David and Jean Mickelson and Family. (Marker Number 10.)
Topics. This historical marker is listed in this topic list: Entertainment.
Location. 44° 48.494′ N, 91° 30.121′ W. Marker is in Eau Claire, Wisconsin, in Eau Claire County. Marker is on 1st Avenue north of Lake Street, on the left when traveling north. Touch for map. Marker is at or near this postal address: 710 2nd Avenue, Eau Claire WI 54703, United States of America. Touch for directions.
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within walking distance of this marker. Woltersdorf House (about 500 feet away, measured in a direct line); Emma and Benjamin Stephanson House (about 500 feet away); Eau Claire (about 600 feet away); Eau Claire County War Memorial (about 600 feet away); J. D. R. Steven House (approx. 0.2 miles away); Mrs. Dewitt Clark House (approx. 0.2 miles away); Immigrants (approx. 0.2 miles away); Charles Ingram House (approx. 0.2 miles away). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Eau Claire.
More about this marker. captions:
• Eau Claire Leader photo of Fournier's, 1971
• Buddy Holly appearing at Fournier's January 26, 1959
• Advertisement from the Eau Claire Leader
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1. Buddy Holly and the Crickets. Fournier's Ballroom photos. (Submitted on May 25, 2014.) 

2. Travel, History, and Buddy Holly in America's Dairyland. "Traveling on two-lane roads covered with ice and drifting snow, the tour plunged into the initial leg of its schedule: Kenosha’s Eagles Ballroom to Mankato, Minn., 350 miles; Mankato to Eau Claire’s Fournier’s Ballroom, 170 miles; Eau Claire to Montevideo in western Minnesota, 230 miles. In Eau Claire temperatures dropped to minus 25 ... After the evening performance at the Surf Ballroom in Clear Lake, the tour was scheduled for a ten-hour ride to Moorhead, Minn. ... That was enough for Buddy Holly. He chartered a small plane to reach Moorhead ... Valens and Richardson ... asked to fly along." (Submitted on May 25, 2014.) 

3. The Day the Music Died. Wikipedia entry. (Submitted on May 25, 2014.) 
Credits. This page was last revised on June 16, 2016. It was originally submitted on May 25, 2014, by Keith L of Wisconsin Rapids, Wisconsin. This page has been viewed 682 times since then and 29 times this year. Photos:   1, 2, 3. submitted on May 25, 2014, by Keith L of Wisconsin Rapids, Wisconsin.
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Mar. 7, 2021