I Carried a Watermelon at the Dirty Dancing Festival, Lake Lure – it’s been 30 years!!

This was a party where people knew themselves.

You could tell by the way they walked around. They weren’t searching or seeking, playing with their hair, or pursing their lips. They were strutting in whatever skin they were in, knowing they were pretty in their own way.

Dirty Dancing Festival Lake Lure
Savannah and I enjoying a dance

That was the energy of the Dirty Dancing after party and I was stoked to be in the middle of it. I had just followed 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,

“Come dance with my 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.

The Dirty Dancing Festival Lake Lure, North Carolina

Dirty Dancing Festival Lake Lure
What a pretty place to host 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.

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.

Dirty Dancing Festival Lake Lure (9)

On our Dirty Dancing tour of Lake Lure and Chimney Rock in North Carolina, we were told it was a low budget film. 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 just behind where the festival was 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.

Lake Lure inn and spa
The Lake Lure Inn and Spa where the Dirty Dancing stars stayed

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.

To participate in watermelon races like our video below:

To watch the lift competition in the lake, just around the corner from where Baby and Johnny practiced in real life.

Dirty Dancing Festival Lake Lure lake lift competition

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.

Shag lessons at the Dirty Dancing festival

It was a scorching hot day at the festival, so to cool us down, we paired the heat with delicious cookie dough ice cream and local ginger cider from Noble Cider based in nearby Asheville.

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.

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 foyer has the original floorboards from the gym 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.

Dirty Dancing festival Johnny and Baby

Me and cardboard cut-outs are becoming a thing on this America Unplugged road trip! (See another one here)

The food was delicious, the company wonderful, and the views out over the mountains of North Carolina gorgeous.

Esmeralda Inn Lake Lure
Esmeralda Inn Lake Lure

Our resort, Rumbling Bald, 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.

Because you know you want to go to the Dirty Dancing Festival

Dirty Dancing Festival Lake Lure Asheville ballet

It’s held every year in August in Lake Lure. Tickets are $25 for adults, $10 for kids.

Check out the official website for more details

Find accommodation deals for Lake Lure, check the current prices for your dates of travel with our partner Booking.com

Don’t miss our post on more things to do in Lake Lure NC.

We attended the Dirty Dancing Festival as guests of Rutherfordton County, North Carolina

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Will I see you at the Dirty Dancing Festival at Lake Lure next year? Are you fan of the movie?

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