Mobile museum soon ready to roll
On Friday, Lyle Steece gave his all to the music he's loved for a lifetime. Steece announced that he was donating his entire building on Main Street in Sioux Rapids to serve as the workshop and storage home for the Arnolds Park based RockNRoll Hall of Fame, as well as his nearly priceless collection of rock 'n roll history.
"While donations are received on a weekly basis, this is the first one of this magnitude that exemplifies to the rest of Iowa and the entire Midwest that we have something very special here that will please and educate all ages for years to come," said John Senn, Iowa RockNRoll Music Association president. "This outstanding display of generosity greatly expands our artifact base and will greatly enhance our ability to provide exciting exhibits."
The 30' by 80' building in Sioux Rapids will be used as storage and as a work area to preserve artifacts and construct exhibits.
While the building add invaluable space to the museum, the true treasure are the artifacts held inside.
"Mr. Steece has a phenomenal collection that is so extensive we will be displaying it in the museum, in portions at a time," said Senn.
Steece has been collecting rock 'n' roll artifacts since he was 9 years old. He has been playing guitar for over 35 years.
"The day Jimi Hendrix died was the day I started playing," Steece remembers.
Steece, who recently moved to Spencer, has accumulated a vast array of items over the years including one of only two known posters from an early 1970s performance of Carlos Santana and the Pelican Peace Band at the Surf Ballroom.
Steece has donated half of his guitar collection, keeping a beloved Jimi Hendrix Stratacaster for his personal collection.
His collection includes between 300 to 400 posters, including several from area venues like the Roof Garden. It is estimated that 3,000-4,000 records are included, as well as musical instruments, amp and stage lighting from years ago.
The donation is estimated at well in excess of $25,000. The valuable items have been moved to the museum site at the Arnolds Park Amusement Park.
Some of the donated artifacts have already made their debut at the museum. Steece had Elvis memorabilia include a Christmas decoration dating to The King's time in military service. Elvis sits on an Army foot locker, and when the locker latch is touched, it plays "I'll Be Home For Christmas."
He had the most extensive collection of Beatles memorabilia Hall of Fame officials have seen, including some signed items. Autographed items from other stars including Ted Nugent are included in the donation.
"We filled ten Excel sheets of individual items while taking inventory of [Steece's] collection," said Doris Welle, Executive Director of the Iowa Rock 'N Roll Music Museum.
Steece's magnificent collection grew to become a little too much for him to handle.
"It just got to be too big and too overwhelming," said Steece. "I knew the [Iowa Rock 'N Roll Music Museum] had a good thing here. I thought it would be better served here were people from all over the world can see it."
The donated building is the site of a former store, a well-preserved historic brick building just east of the theater museum building in Sioux Rapids. "The owner called us out of the blue about a month ago and said he was going to give it to us. We were very surprised, and very grateful to have a place to work, which is the one thing we have been lacking," said Welle.
The donation of Steece's collection came at a perfect time to join the newest project of the museum.
"We appreciate collectors such as Mr. Steece who generously donate something they have lovingly put together over a long period of time," said Senn. "In addition to those that come into the museum, some of his collection will be part of our newest project - a traveling exhibit."
The Iowa Rock 'N Roll Music Museum purchased a used school bus from the Okoboji School District and has plans to turn it into a rolling museum to educate people on the history of Rock 'N Roll.
"We hope to launch this traveling exhibit this spring in hopes of taking it to all parts of the state," said Senn. "We believe it will provided added support for the educational presentations on music history we are giving in the schools and will also serve as an educational piece at county fairs, malls and other exhibit opportunities."