"The Winter Dance Party" was a tour that was set to cover 24 Midwestern cities in three weeks. A logistical problem with the tour was the amount of travel, as the distance between venues was not a priority when scheduling each performance. For example, the tour would start at venue A, travel 200 miles to venue B, and travel back 170 miles to venue C, which was only 30 miles from venue A. Adding to the disarray, the tour bus used to carry the musicians was ill-prepared for the weather; its heating system broke shortly after the tour began.
The Surf Ballroom in Clear Lake, Iowa was never intended to be a stop on the tour, but promoters, hoping to fill an open date, called the manager of the ballroom at the time and offered him the show. He accepted and the date of the show was set for February 2.
By the time Buddy Holly arrived at the ballroom that evening, he was frustrated with the tour bus and told his bandmates that, once the show was over, they should try to charter a plane to get to the next stop on the tour (an armory in Moorhead, Minnesota). The destination of the flight was Hector Airport in Fargo, North Dakota (directly across the Red River from Moorhead), as Moorhead did not have an airport.