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If you happen to be in Lake Lure in August, then you may want to check out the Annual Dirty Dancing Festival, which is a fantastic day event full of fun and laughter, beach bands, food, beer and wine, and of course, lots and lots of dancing!
It’s not just about the dance performances though, you can also take part in dance lessons, build crafts with craft vendors, and finish off with the Lake Lift Competition which reenacts the iconic scene where Patrick Swayze lifts Jennifer Grey in the lake.
This was a party where people knew themselves. There was no searching or seeking, playing with their hair, or pursing their lips, it was just a place where everyone could have a feel-good time and celebrate this iconic movie.
If you’re thinking you’d like to visit the Dirty Dancing Festival, then keep reading to find out more about it and how you can attend…
- About The Dirty Dancing Festival Lake Lure, North Carolina
- Our Experience At The Dirty Dancing Festival
- Other Dirty Dancing Film Locations in Lake Lure
- Our favorite place to stay in Lake Lure
- Final Thoughts on the Dirty Dancing Festival
About The Dirty Dancing Festival Lake Lure, North Carolina
Lake Lure’s Dirty Dancing Festival is held every year in August in Lake Lure. Dates for 2023 are yet to be announced. It takes place in the Hickory Nut Gorge, on the spot where the actual movie was filmed.
The basketball courts make way for a huge stage where dance lessons take place, and the grassy lawn becomes an outdoor cinema.
Activites you can expect on the day are watermelon-carrying races, amateur shag competitions, Kellerman’s Festival Talent Show, a lakeside film screening (of course) and finally, the annual Lake Lift competition.
Each year, only 2,500-3,000 tickets are sold so you need to book ahead if you want to secure your spot.
Our Experience At The Dirty Dancing Festival
4,000 people coming together to relive the memories and the one liners.
I carried a watermelon. “Nobody puts baby in the corner.”
Tell me you haven’t said a Dirty Dancing line a hundred times with your best friends.
The only movie to rival it in my personal movie rerun history was Girls Just Want to Have Fun.
I’ve seen Dirty Dancing at least 20 times, and the last dance scene when Johnny takes baby from the corner to do the lift at least 100.
Many scenes of the movie were shot on location at Lake Lure, even though the movie was set in the Catskills.
They filmed all the staff quarters such as the boys’ camp and Johnny’s cabin, just behind where the festival is held and there is contention as to whether the lake lift scene was filmed in this beautiful North Carolina lake or somewhere in Virginia.
We do know Jennifer Grey and Patrick Swayze practiced in the waters of Firefly Cove on Lake Lure anyway. And they stayed in the Lake Lure Inn – their rooms heavy in demand for this festival.
They never expected the movie to do so well. But it became an icon. As was evident by the 4,000 people celebrating 30 years later!
It grabbed me. I longed for that life in that movie. When I think back to define what it was it gave me, I think it was less a longing for love or romance, but more a longing for discovery, for adventure, for the experience.
That’s what the Kellerman’s Resort and the Dirty Dancing gave me.
The hope that life could be different. That you could express yourself and as a result of that take yourself out of the corner and leap high into the air. That the good guy would win, that class didn’t matter, and you fought for what you believed in.
And of course, it gave us a brilliant soundtrack and sweaty, sexy dancing with gorgeous men. Who did not fall in love with Patrick Swayze in this movie?
We travel in the USA to explore more deeply and uncover the hidden secrets. This festival was one of them. Like the movie, it was just good fun.
It wasn’t anything dramatic or special, but it gave us all an opportunity to relive the show.
Check out our video of Caz participating in the watermelon races below:
The highlight of the festival was to watch the lift competition in the lake, just around the corner from where Baby and Johnny practiced in real life.
The participants were focused and determined to stay up in the air the longest and win that coveted crown. We even had a marriage proposal and everyone cheered and were so happy he did not lose the ring to the sucking mud underneath.
The pretend Johnny informed us of one myth from the show – the lift is actually harder to do in the water.
But aren’t we so glad they pretended it was. That chemistry between Baby and Johnny was amazing, even though apparently they didn’t like each other in real life.
That chemistry between Baby and Johnny was amazing, even though apparently they didn’t like each other in real life.
We didn’t arrive on time, but they also have dancing lessons at the festival as well. In this part of America, they call it shagging!
Not the horizontal folk dancing kind that we know it as in Australia.
I love anything ginger and it’s rare to find a ginger cider. I want to order crates of it.
After the lake lift, the festival ended, and everyone moved to one of the many after parties that happens at the resorts and in the Lake Lure area.
Other Dirty Dancing Film Locations in Lake Lure
As well as attending the festival, there are some other filming locations in Lake Lure that you can visit if you’re a fan of the movie. Though it was really only the ‘boys’ camp’ scene that took place in the area…
1. Esmeralda Inn and Restaurant
Our of group of journalists attending the festival had one stop to make before we hit the party – The Esmeralda Inn and Restaurant for dinner.
It’s a 125-year-old inn and the lobby has the original floorboards from the gymnasium where Baby and Johnny had their dance.
I didn’t notice that too much as I was too busy having a photo with the both of them.
Me and cardboard cut-outs are becoming a thing on this America Unplugged road trip!
The food was delicious, the company wonderful, and the views out over the mountains of North Carolina gorgeous.
2. Rumbling Bald Mountain Golf Course
We stayed at the Rumbling Bald Resort, which was the famous gold course where Baby interrupts her dad’s swings to ask for money.
During the festival, it had an after party on the beach with beautiful views of the lake.
The girls raced to meet me at the after party and told me they had watched the movie and the dancing in the restaurant of Rambling Bald while they waited for me to return. The color drained from my face, “Was the volume down?”
Oh thank goodness. They were some questions I was not ready to answer yet. Dirty Dancing was brave enough to tackle some serious issues back then.
Instead of questions, they leaped into practicing the legendary lift scene themselves.
30 years later, Dirty Dancing still gets under people’s skin.
3. Lake Lure Inn & Spa
Although none of the movie was actually filmed at Lake Lure Inn and Spa, it has dirty dancing themed rooms, so if you’re looking for somewhere to stay during the festival, check this hotel out.
You can stay in Johnny’s cabin or Baby’s bungalow. It was also where Patrick and Jennifer stayed during filming.
It also overlooks the landscape of Chimney Rock Village camp, where you can see the original lodging, dining hall and gym in the film. It’s also overlooking the staff cabins and actors stayed.
Our favorite place to stay in Lake Lure
The Lodge on Lake Lure is one of the most beautiful places to stay in Lake Lure. It was built in the 30’s as a retreat for North Carolina highway patrolmen and opened to the public in 1990.
It’s the only lakefront lodging in Lake Lure and offers a unique experience with spectacular views. The Tree Tops Dining Room has stunning views of Lake Lure and the Hickory Nut Gorge mountains. It’s the best way to start your day with a buffet breakfast and dinner is served Wednesday through Saturday evenings. See prices and availability here.
Final Thoughts on the Dirty Dancing Festival
I was 12 when Dirty Dancing was released. Yes, That was 30 years ago. And yes, here I was celebrating that movie at an annual festival dedicated to it.
There was energy throughout the whole day, even at the Dirty Dancing after party, and I was stoked to be in the middle of it.
I remember following Savannah onto the dance floor after watching the Asheville Ballet dance to Be My Baby, Yes and Stay.
She was mesmerized. When the floor opened up to all of us she started tapping her foot and swinging her hips and showing off her best dance moves.
“Come dance with me Mummy.”
Not long after Craig drifted out with us, which finally convinced Kalyra to let go of her inhibitions and dance around with us.
We were making memories. Everyone was having the time of their lives dancing to live music, and so were we.
Disclaimer: We attended the Dirty Dancing Festival as guests of Rutherfordton County, North Carolina, but all thoughts, ideas and opinions in this guide are our own.
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Will I see you at the Dirty Dancing Festival at Lake Lure next year? Are you fan of the movie? Let us know in the comments.