Not Your Father’s Conference

FestiGals offers a full weekend of professional and personal development tailored for each attendee.

To some, attending a conference equates to fumbling with name tags, sitting in uncomfortable chairs all day and counting the number of distracted people on their phones during a panel presentation. FestiGals Women’s Weekend Experience turns that idea on its ear.

Returning for its seventh run, June 22-24, at the JW Marriott, FestiGals is New Orleans’ first and only women-centric festival that combines a “girls’ weekend” celebratory ethos with professional development, networking and philanthropy. The three days of events are organized into professional, personal and cultural experiences, all carefully curated by founder Diane Lyons and her team at Accent-DMC, Lyons’ award-winning conference and event planning firm.

“We started as a girlfriend getaway weekend,” said Lyons, “but as our program has evolved, we’ve grown into the FestiGals New Orleans Women’s Weekend Experience. It’s really a multifaceted event that appeals to a variety of women.”

The weekend is organized to encourage attendees to create personalized itineraries that focus on the interest areas most meaningful to them. The online schedule is color coded with special icons to help guests craft their perfect weekend—making it possible to have a blend of personal/professional or an intense focus on one track.

“When we talk about the weekend, there are various experiences, all unique to New Orleans,” explained Lyons. “Women have the option of coming for the entire time or just picking their passion and attending an event of their choice.”

Thursday, June 22 starts the women’s weekend with the Grand Diva Coronation and Diva Welcome Reception. The Grand Diva for 2017 will be New Orleans jazz singer Robin Barnes who will lead the Stiletto Stroll second line parade on Saturday.

The New Orleans Women’s Leadership Conference at FestiGals takes place on Friday, June 23. This day-long aspect of the weekend has been designed to help attendees “unleash your passion, live your purpose and discover your power.”

The keynote speaker for the conference portion is Linda Alvarado, co-owner of the Colorado Rockies and president/CEO of Alvarado Construction. In 1976, Alvarado started a curb and sidewalk installation company. It has since grown into an international construction, development and property management firm.

Alvarado is a member of the National Women’s Hall of Fame, and her long list of accolades includes being named one of “The Best Latinos In Business,” and one of Colorado’s “Most Powerful People.”

Other panels during Friday’s conference include topics such as negotiations, culinary entrepreneurs, nutrition, craft brewing, leadership, communication strategies and even burlesque.

After the hard work is done on Friday, the itinerary for Saturday returns to celebrating life through fun and philanthropy. The infamous Bodacious Bras for a Cause Brunch takes the frivolity of glitter and lingerie and makes it meaningful as a fundraiser benefiting the Cancer Association of Greater New Orleans and Breastoration.

After the brunch, secret French Quarter homes will be toured and then the Stiletto Stroll Second Line Parade will dance through the Quarter and culminate in the After-Glow Party.

With all the events over the course of the weekend, new friends and business connections are inevitable.

“It’s so exhilarating to see so many women gathering together, connecting and sharing experiences,” said Lyons. “I love hearing stories of how relationships were formed at FestiGals, personally and professionally.”


FestiGals registration is open to all

Various ticket levels are available to customize any experience, including…

The Ultimate Diva package: Priced at $399, this package includes VIP access to all the events, plus exclusive events as well.

Bodacious Bras for a Cause: priced at $100, this event includes a Bloody Mary Mixer, live bra-art auction, entertainment and a fashion show featuring women who are “thriving in their cancer journeys.”

The Stiletto Stroll: $50 tickets include all food and libations for the pre-party, Stiletto Stroll Second Line and After-Glow Party.

New Orleans Women’s Leadership Conference on June 23: Individual tickets are $150.

Special hotel rates are also available at JW Marriott.

For more information and to purchase tickets, visit

Jennifer Gibson Schecter was once a tourist in New Orleans herself and is now proud to call NOLA home. She also writes the Wednesday Tourism Blog on


Categories: Activism, Festivals, The Magazine