We received admission to the Dirty Dancing Festival in Lake Lure in exchange for this post. All opinions and our love for the movie Dirty Dancing remain our own.
The alarm clock went off at 5:30 am. A gentle nudge to awaken the teenagers, and 194.1 miles later, we were in the Blue Ridge Mountains, winding our way around a man-made lake before getting out of the car, warming our hips and setting our eyes on the lake where Johnny Castle taught Baby Houseman to lift.
The Dirty Dancing Festival–Our end of summer hoorah in the place where, in a summer in 1963, a shy teenage girl grew up, learned about social classes, romance, trust, and most importantly, she learned to dance.
The lake has been here since 1927. A power company established a dam on the Broad River from there, this rustic, town by the name of Lake Lure, was created.
The area is charming. The lake has many fingers and showcases magnificent homes, hollows and views. Even if you don’t have a scrapbook of pictures from family vacations, you’ve been here. You’ve been here from movies such as A Breed Apart (1984), Firestarter (1984), Dirty Dancing (1987) and The Last of the Mohicans (1992) final 17 minutes were filmed just down the road at Chimney Rock and Hickory Nut Gorge.
A fine mist fell from the sky, much like glitter, as we stepped into the field. It’s a beautiful setting with the Blue Ridge Mountains behind and the Lake Lure Inn and Spa, where the cast members of Dirty Dancing stayed during filming, across the street. For the record, Patrick Swayze stayed in room 205. Other notable hotel guests include Franklin Delanor Roosevelt, F. Scott Fitzgerald and Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter honeymooned at the hotel.
It’s not a set like you’d find at Universal Studios or the ABC Lot. In fact, there’s not much here in terms of film sites, a few areas in and around the lake, a hole on one of the golf courses, the Fairfield Inn are still here. The staff cabins were demolished. The steps to the bridge where Baby practiced her dance moves and carried a watermelon are across the lake in a housing development. Down the road about 35 miles, at the Esmerelda Inn, the floor from the gymnasium where the final dance scene was filmed can be seen. Aside from that, there isn’t much.
It should be noted that part of Dirty Dancing was filmed at Lake Lure and part of it was filmed at Mountain Lake in Virginia (Kellerman’s (or the hotel that served as Kellerman’s) is located at the Virginia location. There is a debate on where the lift in the lake scene was filmed, but reliable sources say it was filmed at Mountain Lodge, in a lake that has since dried up. Most of the footage around that scene, including the dance on the log, however, was filmed at Lake Lure, North Carolina).
What is here is a gathering, where 4,000 fans of the film and it’s music come together to celebrate the 1987 film, Dirty Dancing. The festival started in 2010. This year is the 10th anniversary of the Dirty Dancing Festival.
The Dirty Dancing Festival is a two-day celebration. It begins with a dance party and in between, there are dance lessons, a dance party, a screening of the film, watermelon carrying races and if you’re inclined you can even take a guided boat tour of the filming locations.
We took dance lessons from the Asheville Ballet in one tent. Later in the morning, we took Shag lessons from Natalie Foreverland in another tent. I can’t dance. Even after dance lessons with Dancing with the Stars, I can’t dance. Jennifer Grey (Baby) went on to compete in 2010, on the eleventh season of Dancing with the Stars with Derek Hough and took home the mirror ball trophy. One of her performances will take Dirty Dancing fans down memory lane.
Swayze could dance; I think every female in 1987 wanted dance lessons from Johnny Castle! Swayze could also sing, and the song, She’s Like the Wind, he co-wrote with Stacy Widelitz for the soundtrack for “Grandview, U.S.A.” debuted at Number 3 on the charts. Stacy Widelitz was at the Dirty Dancing Festival!
Our day at the festival was also the 10th anniversary of Patrick Swayze’s passing away, September 14th, after his two-year battle with pancreatic cancer. In memory of Patrick Swayze, in 2013, the festival began donating part of the proceeds to the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network).
We enjoyed food and craft vendors. At the center was a huge stage playing live music with a dance floor.
Johnny Castle’s 1957 Chevy Belair was at the festival. Remember when Johnny accidentally locks the keys to his car inside this car and just takes a pole out of the ground to smash the car’s window.
Sometimes, the unexpected happens. You find yourself in a field with people who have the same appreciation for a film, you take dance lessons, knowing you’re only in it for the fun, and you walk away, feeling the nostalgia of a time long ago when life was a little less complicated. Dance in that field, sing with the band on the stage, after all, “No one puts Baby in the corner”. Have confidence in yourself.
I’ll see you next year, Lake Lure, Dirty Dancing Festival. It’ll be better than this amazing year!