Reminiscing on Ryan’s Bass Lake Ballroom

Reminiscing on Ryan’s Bass Lake Ballroom

By Ella Vincent

Before Ryan’s Bass Lake Ballroom burned down in 1975, it was a major entertainment presence in Plymouth, Minnesota. More commonly known as Ryan’s Ballroom, it was a local music pavilion located just north of Bass Lake Road in what is now the Oakwood Shores neighborhood. Its dinners, dances and festive events helped shape our community. 

Minnesota in the 1950’s was a burgeoning ballroom dancing scene, with mainstays like the Marigold Ballroom, Rogers Ballroom, Medina Ballroom, Prom Center and Chubb’s Ballroom. Ryan’s Bass Lake Ballroom was Plymouth’s premier location for dining, dancing, and listening to great music. Together, these venues had a hand in influencing the music and social scene in Minneapolis, and showcased the impressive quality of musicians from the Twin Cities area.

Ryan’s Ballroom held weekly dances with live music as well as other events. On Saturday and Sunday nights in the 1950s, the venue offered dinners with “Modern & Old Time Dancing” from 7pm to 11pm. In March 1953, Ryan’s Ballroom held a Gala St. Patrick’s Day Ball with the music of Elmer Larson’s Northern Knights. Also during that time, Ryan’s Ballroom held semi or annual events like a winter “Flakey Frolic” and Gala Easter Bonnet Parade with “prizes for the ladies”.

In the 1960s, Ryan’s Bass Lake Ballroom hosted polka bands and headliners from the Country Cousins to Kris Kober and Bob Mastel. Later, it would host future Minnesota Rock/Country Hall of Famer’s Dave Brady and the Stars. The Minneapolis based band popularized the Motown style of music locally, and went on to open for The Mamas & the Papas of “California Dreamin’” fame. 

According to an advertisement by Ryan’s, in 1967 it was only open to teens on Fridays. Another ad from March 1967 indicates that there was no rock ‘n’ roll played at the ballroom during that time. However, in March 1969, a rock band called Joker’s Wild played at Ryan’s Ballroom, shortly after their gig opening for “Whiter Shade of Pale” singer Procol Harum. 

Newspaper clipping discussing the Ryan’s Ballroom (Parker’s Lake Pavilion) fire. 1975. PHS Collection.

Sadly an era went up in flames a short time later on November 25th, 1975 when Ryan’s Ballroom caught fire and burned down. According to one local source, “the spectacular night time blaze brought tears to the eyes of many, as they recalled the good times that had been had in that landmark.” 

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