By Cheré Coen. Photography courtesy of Dirty Dancing, mtnlakelodge.com and dirtydancingfestival.com
It’s 1963 and, as Bob Dylan would sing the following year, “the times, they are a changing.” Frances “Baby” Houseman and her family travel to a resort nestled in the New York Catskill Mountains for a summer vacation. Her physician father expects his little girl to go to college, do a tour in the Peace Corps and marry a doctor. But Baby has other ideas, mainly the resort’s dance instructor Johnny Castle, who listens to edgy music and hangs out with what Baby’s father calls “those people.”
As Baby becomes more involved in Johnny’s life, she stretches her comfort zone and rebels against what’s expected of her in the film, “Dirty Dancing” starring Jennifer Grey, Patrick Swayze and Jerry Orbach. Baby volunteers to take the place of Johnny’s dancing partner in a competition and the two grow close.
The modest production film premiered on Aug. 21, 1987, and made almost $214 million worldwide. “Dirty Dancing” won an Oscar, Golden Globe and Grammy, among other awards, for its song, “(I’ve Had) The Time of My Life,” sung by Bill Medley and Jennifer Warnes. The soundtrack raced up the charts and went platinum numerous times, plus produced several hit singles.
This summer marks the 30th anniversary of the popular film, as well as what would have been Swayze’s 65th birthday; he died in 2009 from cancer. In honor of both, Southern locations where the film was made are hosting “Dirty Dancing” special events. Mountain Lake Lodge in Pembroke, Va., for instance, doubled as Kellerman’s resort in the film and will offer “Dirty Dancing” weekends from June through September.
Guests will arrive on Friday and enjoy a farm-to-table dinner in the resort’s Harvest restaurant, which was used in the dining scenes of the movie.
“It looks the same as it did in the movie,” said Josef Koefer, Mountain Lake’s marketing manager. Also on Friday evening, there will be dancing to music from the film at the gazebo, also used in the film, followed by a screening of “Dirty Dancing” on the front lawn.
“Everyone will come as their favorite character from the movie, so there’ll be lots of Johnnys and Babys,” said Koefer.
Saturday will feature lawn games after breakfast, events such as sack and watermelon races like in the film.
“It’s all the lawn games you would have seen in the movie,” Koefer said.
Later on Saturday, there will be a film location tour and a dance party at Mary’s Barn. After Sunday breakfast, guests will enjoy a scavenger hunt with a “Dirty Dancing” theme.
The package includes all events and meals.
Mountain Lake Lodge rests in the heart of Virginia’s Blue Ridge Mountains and is located within a 2,600-acre nature preserve. Accommodations range from historic rustic cabins dating back to 1912 and cozy cottages to guest rooms at the Main Stone Lodge and Chestnut Lodge.
Like in the film, the lodge offers numerous recreational activities, including disc golf, tennis, badminton, bocce ball, and hiking or mountain biking along 22 miles of trails. There’s an outdoor pool and fitness center and special events such as movie night and arts and crafts are offered as well. Other dining options besides Harvest are the Stony Creek Tavern and Mary’s Market and Café. For more information, visit www.mtnlakelodge.com.
Over in North Carolina, where parts of the movie were filmed at an old Boys Camp at Lake Lure (now a residential community called Firefly Cove), there’s the Eighth Annual Dirty Dancing Festival Aug. 18-19 at Morse Park Meadows in Lake Lure. The festival includes a lakeside screening of the movie on Friday as well as live entertainment. Saturday’s events include music, dance performances, games for all ages — those lawn games again — and the Asheville Ballet performs and teaches dance moves from the film throughout the day. There will also be a Dirty Dancing After Party lakeside at Rumbling Bald Resort.
One of the highlights of the Dirty Dancing Festival is the Lake Lift Competition, where participants recreate the film’s famous scene where Johnny teaches Baby a lift move that they will perform in an upcoming dance competition. That scene was filmed in Virginia — when the water temperature was 40 degrees! Scenes filmed in North Carolina were Baby practicing dance moves on stairs, Johnny’s cabin and the scene where Baby asks her father for money to help Johnny’s friend. For more information, visit www.dirtydancingfestival.com.