Stepping Up, Leaning In, Rocking Out

FestiGals combines feather boas and C-suite advice

New Orleans is known for its festivals, conferences, second lines and its generosity. June 21 – June 24 all those things converge at the 8th annual FestiGals Women’s Weekend Experience.

FestiGals has found its niche in creating a weekend filled with professional development, networking, personal empowerment, leisure opportunities, philanthropy, spiritual health and the most elemental key to living your best life – dancing in the streets. Its success through the years can be contributed to creating an event that speaks to women from different backgrounds and different hometowns.

“I love the fact that it’s so diverse across all the ways it can be – age, ethnicity, et cetera,” said Diane Lyons, the creator of FestiGals and president of ACCENT-DMC, the event company that produces FestiGals. “It draws women who are attracted to the idea of connecting with other women. The cool thing I’ve found is we aren’t all the same and in the same place in our lives, but we really do connect and make lifelong friends, even across distances.”

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Lyons is especially proud of the charitable outcomes from the event. Formerly the “Stiletto Stroll,” the Step Up Second-Line Parade on Friday brings awareness and raises funds for the New Orleans Family Justice Center (NOFJC).

NOFJC is a community-based organization that supports survivors of domestic violence, sexual assault, stalking and child abuse. It provides confidential emergency shelter and access to resources such as police, trauma-informed therapists and legal counsel. According to NOFJC, 1 in 5 women and 1 in 77 men has experienced rape in her or his lifetime, and approximately 15.5 million children are exposed to domestic violence every year. NOFJC’s 24-hour crisis hotline is (504) 866-9554.

Lyons said that so far, FestiGals has confirmed 32 marching krewes to participate in the Step Up Second-Line Parade and those krewes alone have raised over $17,000 for NOFJC. She expects more than 1,500 people will participate in the pre-party, parade and after-party. A portion of the party ticket proceeds will be added to the amount raised by the krewes and donated to NOFJC.

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The parade caps off “Tricentennial Women’s Day,” a Friday filled with educational and inspirational panels, the Tricentennial Keynote Luncheon with Dr. K. Renee Horton and “FestiTalks,” the FestiGals version of TED Talks where professional and amateur public speakers will have five minutes each to present.’s own Leslie Snadowsky will moderate the FestiTalks, which promise to be “disruptive talks with a distinctly feminine edge.” The eight presentations over the course of an hour range widely with titles including “The Art of Car Karaoke,” “Healing the Trauma that Blocks You,” “What Are You Anchored To?” and “Be the Boss of YOU in Your Career Path.”

Saturday’s focus is more toward entertainment and New Orleans culture with curated tours of MS RAU Antiques, The Historic New Orleans Collection, the Vieux Carre and a cruise aboard the Steamboat Natchez. A special dinner at Tujague’s Restaurant with Poppy Tooker is planned as well.

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FestiGals culminates on Sunday with the House of Blues Gospel Brunch to feed your belly and your soul.

The 2018 iteration of FestiGals promises more fun, learning opportunities and connections than ever before. Lyons is thrilled with the event’s growth through the years and expects great things to come.

“With where women are today, it’s so important to get together in a safe space where you can be who you want to be. What I see for the future of FestiGals is that it grows to be a weekend of absolutely everything women enjoy – family, food, dancing, art, their careers. I’m excited to find partners to help grow it.”

Tickets to FestiGals events and the full-day Friday package can be purchased online via Eventbrite. Tickets to everything except Thursday’s Culinary Experience were still available as of Tuesday.



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