Lubbock trip a high note for Danish fan of Buddy Holly
But for Lars Gantriis, a 19-year-old business college student from Denmark, the stops were the highlights of his week’s stay in Lubbock. Gantriis is part of a group of 32 students from 19 countries participating in the Julien C. Hyer Lions International Youth Camp.
The six-week program has exposed the students to life in Texas through stays in Dallas/Fort Worth, Lake Texoma, San Antonio and Lubbock.
”The day I got the acceptance letter — which said we would be going to Lubbock — that was the first thing I took note of,” Gantriis said.
The reason it struck his fancy can be traced to a young man with dark-rimmed glasses who wooed the world with his own brand of rock ‘n’ roll. And who happened to call Lubbock home.
Gantriis, who studies trade and economics, said he first became acquainted with Buddy Holly’s work while playing the role of the KDAV-radio deejay in his college’s production of ”The Buddy Holly Story.”
”I like the ’60s and ’70s music; I love dancing to it,” he said. ”And because we practiced all the time, we got to know the songs.”
Gantriis is now pretty well-versed on Holly, and he can sing most of the songs by heart — much to the delight of his fellow campers, who got to hear him at a Wednesday night karaoke party at Chelsea Street Pub.
”It’s hard to explain,” he said of his fascination with the singer. ”Buddy Holly kind of gave me a good experience with the musical, and I just love his music.”
As if visiting Buddy’s hometown wasn’t enough, Gantriis got a real surprise when Lubbock program coordinators Stan and Sandy Powers announced they had arranged two special events for him: visits with Buddy’s brother Larry and the famed Peggy Sue Gerron, the subject of one of Holly’s songs.
”I was speechless when they told me,” Gantriis said. ”They told us at the beginning of the tour that this would be the time of our lives, and this has helped a lot.”
During their week in Lubbock, the teens have visited the Breedlove Dehydration Plant, Texas Tech, Cap*Rock Winery and the Ranching Heritage Center — a traditional favorite. But Lubbock itself is typically popular among the foreign visitors.
”They enjoy it here more than some places because this is what they’re expecting (Texas to be),” said Heather Blum, a youth director for the tour.
”We’re not really supposed to be entertaining them; they’re supposed to be learning about us,” added Sandy Powers, a teacher who with her husband has helped organize the tour events for several years. ”This is a cultural exchange, so we just try to show them everything about this area we can squeeze in.
”They usually say this is the highlight of their trip, but not because of the places as much as the people, who are so friendly and curious about them.”
Joanne Wilson, a student from Northern Ireland, found that to be true. She applied for the program after hearing friends rave about past trips. She was hoping, she said, to see something different.
And though her television-based expectations of a cowboy-on-horseback covered Texas prairie hasn’t proven 100 percent true, she’s enjoyed the trip and her host family, the Powerses.
”I didn’t think it would be as green,” she said, explaining her expectations of a vast dry area. ”Everything’s so big here; I would never try to drive here.”
So far, her favorite Lubbock activity was the karaoke party and the comedy show by Dave Trout at Chelsea’s. As for Asaf Franco of Israel — whom Powers calls the joker of the group — a little healthy flirting with Wilson and the other girls on the tour ranked high.
But Franco, who said he’s a cowboy now after receiving a Texas Rangers’ Stetson from a Sherman host family, also has enjoyed seeing the sights of a place very different from home.
The students’ tour is only half over, and they have another week in Dallas, one in San Antonio and a wrap-up week in the Metroplex. The remainder of the camp holds promise of theme parks, zoos and museums.
But could anything top the Buddy Holly hometown experience for Lars Gantriis? That’ll be the day.
By TERESA COX YOUNG