FestiGals raise more than $30,000 for victims of domestic violence in New Orleans

NEW ORLEANS - Thousands of women invaded New Orleans this past weekend for fun, friendship and fundraising. It was the 8th annual FestiGals celebration, organized by Founding Diva Diane Lyons, the president of Accent DMC, an event planning organization based in New Orleans.

The female warriors came from all over the planet: there were many locals, and others who traveled around the world to join the activities and the activism; one woman flew in from Australia just to attend FestiGals.

At Friday's Tricentennial luncheon, New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell addressed the women, applauding their efforts to stop domestic violence. For many, the highlight of the weekend happened Friday night, parading through the French Quarter for a cause. The event formerly known as the "Stiletto Stroll" has been renamed: "Step Up: A Second Line Parade to STOP Domestic Violence."

Dressed to impress, crowds of FestiGals took to the streets, including dozens of marching groups. FestiGal 2018 Grand Diva, Stephanie Burks, wore a stunning Wonder Woman outfit, complete with sparkling cape. Burks, the Co-Founder and Vice President of RYCARS Construction, has been a part of FestiGals for many years and is a game changer in the New Orleans community.

FestiGals weekend is perhaps best known for an event that didn't happen this year: The Bodacious Bras for a Cause brunch, dedicated to cancer awareness. In seven years, the event raised nearly $200,000.

With domestic violence ever present in New Orleans, event founder Diane Lyons felt it was time for a change, but she's not ruling out the return of the bodacious bras event some time in the future.

"Louisiana has so many needs right now. Domestic violence is a huge issue nationwide however Louisiana is number one or two in the country for domestic violence issues. One in four women in our state will be a victim of domestic violence in her lifetime," says Lyons, adding that the second line raised $30,000 before it even began, so the grand total will likely be closer to the $40,000 mark.

The money will go to the New Orleans Family Justice Center, a one-stop shop for domestic violence and sexual abuse victims.

Other events during the weekend included inspirational speakers, walking tours, a cruise on the Steamboat Natchez, and a dinner at Tujague's, featuring a talk by radio host and culinary historian Poppy Tooker.

This year FestiGal's home base was the Jung Hotel and Residences on Canal Street.

It wrapped up on Sunday with a Gospel Brunch at The House of Blues.

"It was a perfect ending," said one FestiGal who traveled from Dallas. "Inspirational music to close out an very inspirational weekend."