Jason Sandford

Jason Sandford is a reporter, writer, blogger and photographer interested in all things Asheville.

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The annual Dirty Dancing Festival returns to Lake Lure this year under new ownership and with a renewed energy following the filming of a television remake of the cult classic this spring around Western North Carolina. The festival, which is in its seventh year, honors the fact that many iconic scenes of the 1987 hit were shot in and around Lake Lure. (Patrick Swayze, a star of the film alongside Jennifer Grey, died in 2009 and in 2013, the festival became an official event of the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network. The festival now donates a portion of proceeds to fight pancreatic cancer.)

The Chamber of Hickory Nut Gorge announced that is had purchased the festival in May. As a result it will now be a local event, produced and managed by the chamber and its team of local volunteers. The event was co-founded by Jo Beyersdorfer of JNB Events in Los Angeles and Michelle McConnell Yelton of McConnell Group PR in Lake Lure, with The McConnell Group joining the chamber team to produce this year’s event, the Morganton News-Herald reported.

The Dirty Dancing remake, by Lionsgate for ABC, was shot around the mountains, including the High Hampton Inn in Highlands and downtown Asheville. The remake stars Abigail Breslin as Baby and Colt Prattes as Johnny. Other stars include Sarah Hyland, Debra Messing and Billy Dee Williams.

I emailed Michelle McConnell Yelton a few questions, and she kindly responded. Here’s more about this year’s Dirty Dancing Festival:

Ashvegas: I’m interested in knowing if you are seeing increased attendance and interest in the Dirty Dancing Festival this year due to the filming of the remake. If yes, is it a significant increase?

Michelle McConnell Yelton: So far, the attendance numbers for the Dirty Dancing Festival seem to be on track as it compares to last year. The remake has certainly caused more buzz about the film, but I think it’s had a stronger impact on a new, younger audience versus the die-hard fans. It’s wonderful that the remake is bringing the film to another generation. I suspect attendance will grow significantly next year when the film hits its 30th anniversary!

Ashvegas: Also, is there any chance that a star from the remake will show up at this year’s event?

Yelton: I wish! None of the remake cast plan to attend, but maybe we can get both original and remake cast here for the festival and the movie’s 30th anniversary. That’s our goal!

Ashvegas: Any big changes to this year’s event?

Yelton: We made several improvements to the festival this year. From improving spectator viewing, to adding two dance performances to the free film screening on Friday night, and tripling the number of vendors, we are committed to making this year’s festival the best one yet! The Dirty Dancing Festival is now locally owned and operated by the Chamber of Hickory Nut Gorge, so it has also allowed us to tap into our awesome volunteer base here in Lake Lure.

Ashvegas: Are you guys excited about the remake?

Yelton: I am very curious to see the remake. I think its great that they are introducing the film to a new generation of viewers, and I hope it encourages them to watch the original. It’s always hard to beat an original film, especially one starring Patrick Swayze!

Ashvegas: It’s my understanding that some scenes of the remake were filmed at Lake Lure. Is that correct?

Yelton: I wish some of the remake was filmed in Lake Lure, but nothing was. We spent a lot of time showing producers and film crews around, and tried to convince people up the food chain, but I think it just came down to distance and budget. It was disappointing, but at least we have the original.

Jason Sandford

Jason Sandford is a reporter, writer, blogger and photographer interested in all things Asheville.

  • 1

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