Last September, a couple sat side by side in lawn chairs as night fell over Lake Lure. Thirty-eight years ago, they spent their honeymoon here, in a little, white house with a bunch of windows in this little, quaint town in a valley between the mountains. They waited 25 years before they returned. Now, they travel back almost every year, from their home in Candor, to celebrate their anniversary.
But last year was a little different. Jerry and Teresa Reynolds, along with about 2,000 other fans, celebrated the movie that made people around the world fall in love with Lake Lure — Dirty Dancing. Firefly Cove provided the backdrop for the famous summer romance between Johnny Castle and Baby Houseman.
The journey back
On Friday night, Jerry and Teresa awaited the beginning of the lakeside film screening, which kicked off the Dirty Dancing Festival, a weekend full of movie-themed events. Teresa bought tickets months before. Cheers rang out as the opening scene played on the giant, inflatable screen. Viewers of all ages mouthed the words to every line. People applauded as Patrick Swayze stepped onto the screen and threw his leather jacket across his shoulder. Moonlight reflected off the lake, and crickets sang in the trees — mimicking scenes from the movie. Twenty-three years after Johnny and Baby frolicked around the lake, the feeling remains.
“It took them almost as long to come back as it took us,” Teresa said. After 750 people stood in the pouring rain at the candlelight service in memory of Patrick Swayze in 2009, Lake Lure officials decided the town needed something to commemorate its ties to the classic film. Michelle Yelton, a Lake Lure local, embraced the idea.
“I think I was 8 when it came out,” Yelton said. “I secretly videotaped it when my parents were away because they didn’t want me to watch it. I still have the VHS that I taped it on.” Yelton also took dance for 10 years growing up. With her personal interest and connection to the area, Yelton took on directing duties of the first Dirty Dancing Festival. When she realized the festival was too big for one person to handle, Yelton partnered with Jo Beyersdorfer.
Still a favorite
On Saturday, fans filled Morse Park Meadows. Jerry snapped photos as Teresa took freestyle log-dancing lessons. The couple, who now have six grandchildren, delighted in this one weekend set aside just for them.
The A-Lure Dancers took the dance floor and impressed the crowd with moves made famous by Johnny and Baby. Across the field, eager learners took shag lessons, and children raced through an obstacle course carrying watermelons, just like Baby. If it related to Dirty Dancing, they were willing to try it.
“It’s really crazy that we still embrace it as if it happened yesterday,” Yelton said. “For women, Baby was just this normal girl, without any dance training, and she kind of transformed into this wonderful performer. As a child, that inspires you. I think that stays with us as we age because that feeling can still apply.”
The weekend’s last event — The Time of Your Life Gala, which sold out a month before — paid tribute to the movie’s final scene. Attendees, dressed in cocktail attire, watched each step as they learned the signature last dance. At the end of the night, they recreated the final dance scene in Firefly Cove, just the way it happened 23 years ago.
As their weekend ended, Jerry and Teresa savored every moment. But they’ll be back. Because just like Johnny and Baby, Lake Lure’s a part of their love story, too.
Dirty Dancing Festival
Leah Hughes is the assistant editor of Our State magazine.