THE ROYAL GROVE BALLROOM


The years stretch back too far
 and the acts are too numerous for
 owner Tommy Jelsma to recall most of
 the performers he has brought to the
 Royal Grove. The club has roots that
 go back to prohibition and The Brown
 Derby, a downtown speak-easy operated
 by Jelsma's grandfather, Henry Brown.
The original Royal Grove was built in
 the village of West Lincoln in 1933 by
 Henry and Christina Brown. After their
 deaths, the business was carried on by
 their daughter Elizabeth (Toody) and
 her husband Harold Jelsma. In the early
 years, the Grove was a beer tavern that
 specialized in pan fried chicken.
In 1960, the business was leased, but
 in 1964, reverted back to the Jelsma
 family. Toody and Harold managed the
 business until 1966 when their son Tommy
 took charge of it. In 1967, local liquor
 laws were passed that made it possible to
 sell mixed drinks and wine along with beer.
 That same year, the Grove was relocated to
 a 2,000 sq. ft. building on Cornhusker
 Highway. Local rock and roll bands were
 the featured entertainment. The building
 has since expanded to its present size of
 approximately 17,400 sq. ft. In 1986, an
 electrical fire caused serious heat and smoke
 damage, but the building was quickly restored
 and back in business.
The club has featured mainly rock 'n roll
 bands, though Asleep at the Wheel and other
 country bands have occasionally played
 there. Among the bands that Jelsma recalls
 are Edgar Winter, Johnny Winter, Bachman
 Turner Overdrive and Pat Benatar. Jerry
 Seinfeld and Elaine Boosler performed at
 the club in 1988.
The Royal Grove has been an
 established Lincoln business for 65 years
 and is still a family operation. Tommy is
 still the man in charge with help from his
 daughters Norma and Connie and grandson
 Michael. With live music every week, The
 Royal Grove continues to be one of the
 hot spots for rock 'n roll in Nebraska.