Two recent events rounded up a slew of socializers on different dates, but both with “festival” as the come-on. The first was the 16th annual Summer Wine Festival given by the French American Chamber of Commerce of the Gulf Coast on level two of The Shops at Canal Place, a lead sponsor along with Air Liquide, Creative Oxygen; Dorignac’s Wines & Spirits; Transdev; and Cox. Later, and as part of the days-long FestiGals activity, the Bodacious Bras Luncheon made cause the celebration at the JW Marriott’s Ile de France Ballroom. More than 30 teams accepted the challenge “to turn ordinary bras into extraordinary works of art.” All proceeds were directed to the Cancer Association of Greater New Orleans (CAGNO) and Breastoration. The fifth such festival (and it keeps growing — and giving!) raised more than $45,000 for those two organizations.

Wines with ‘Six’ Appeal

Francophiles and francophones of all stripes have been pre-celebrating Bastille Day, the French national holiday, for days. Well, the actual date is today, le quartorze juillet. Looking back to French fun and importance in the past weeks, the calendar targets another date that is replete with significance: June 6. In the U.S., we honor it as D-Day and recall the Allies’ initial storming of the beaches on France’s Normandy coast in 1944.

Each year in the Crescent City, the French American Chamber of Commerce-Gulf Coast holds its Summer Wine Festival, usually in late June. This year, the date was earlier to give more time for all the Bastille Day preparations, and the selected date was “6/6.” A further theme was added, that of love: “La France, Je T’Aime” (France, I Love You).

Wine lovers and Francophiles alike came from across Louisiana and the Gulf Coast to “taste exquisite cuisine, sip fine French wine (and other libations, such as margaritas), sway to sweet music, bid on fabulous auction items and share the evening with great friends.” They also supported the Chamber (formerly “of Louisiana”) which has grown in territory and in its development of business relationships within its vast region, the Gulf Coast. In the past 12 months, there’s been an extensive series of networking and business events. Recognized, too, is the rich history of the alliance of France and the United States.

Headlining this “Summer Love” were honorary Co-Chairmen Eric Belin (FACC-GC president) and board members (among others) Greg Lambousy and Melissa Ereckson; auction Chairmen Beatrice Germaine and Scott Marcella; the auction committee’s Jean Cranmer, Edna Greenbaum, and Jeannine Fricker; sponsorship Co-Chairmen David Buquoi and Earl Dyck; Ron Marlow, who chaired the volunteerism; and event coordinator Frank Stansbury. Loretta Krasnow is the executive director. Enjoying honorary status, as well, was French Consul General Gregor Trumel and spouse Ingrid.

In March, Earl Dyck (Air Liquide) and Randy Robb (Chennault International Airport Authority) were recognized as the 2015 FACC-GC Distinguished Member Award recipients at the annual dinner meeting in the Ile de France Ballroom of the JW Marriott. Chamber board Chairmen Henry Battle presented the awards, President Eric Belin extended opening and closing remarks, GNO Inc. President and CEO Michael Hecht was the guest speaker, Rene Bajeux arranged the four-course meal, and Anais St. John provided live entertainment.

Back at The Shops at Canal Place for the 16th Summer Wine Festival single-stem roses adorned each table, as did linens in blue, white and red (repeating the French flag colors of bleu, blanc et rouge). Sponsoring patrons received signature necklaces and special French wine. For everyone, the hundreds and hundreds of attendees, Dorignac’s donated the wine glasses.

More donations came in the form of auction ado. Sig Greenebaum gave a 2015 Voodoo Music + Arts Experience; Cox, a mini iPad; and others, sports packages, clothing, and hotel stays, including one in Beaune, France. In between bites and bibulous rounds, guests headed to the tables for spirited bidding.

Music and entertainment came in different guises and genres. There was accordionist Norbert Slama with John Rankin; violinist and singer Neti Vaan; Joe Simon’s Jazz Music Strolling Trio; and Amy Kirk with the costumed Krewe Jeanne d’Arc. In fact, many of the guests sported period clothing, drawing on various times. The 1960s were especially touted.

Noted were Transdev CEO Justin Augustine III with guests Donna Bowman, Dina Lavigne and Jennetter Dobard; Melanie and David Weller; Edna Greenbaum with daughter Abigail and son and daughter-in-law Aaron and Savannah; Beverly Baudouin; spouses Shelley Landrieu and David Spielman; John and Amy Haspel and daughter Hillary; Eleanor Farnsworth and friend Sue Murphy; Bob Rue with his wife, Jean Cranmer; Brad and Dodie Powers; and Wendy Macquet, whose husband is chef Dominique Macquet, owner of Saveur restaurant.

More than two dozen participating cuisines and just short of a dozen libations stations kept the crowd coming back for more.

Still others were chefs Jean-Luc Albin, Jacques Soulas, and Rene Bajeux — to mention a few; Charlie and Mary Lynne Jones, Nick and Nancy Matulich, Fred Holley, Niki Polk (Port of New Orleans), Eliza Brierre and Jessica Steverson (World Trade Center of New Orleans), FACC-GC board members, and north shore District Attorney Warren Montgomery and a busload from the north shore that included Nixon Adams, Mitch Mitchell, and lots more.

All will be circling Thurs., Nov. 19, when the Chamber hosts another grape-oriented event: the Beaujolais Nouveau Festival 2015. It’ll be another wine time.

Festive Gals

George Bernard Shaw wrote “Arms and the Man,” but this was “Bras and the Woman” when FestiGals, whose motto is “Empowering & Enriching Women, New Orleans Style!”, held its highlighted luncheon. Titled “Bodacious Bras for a Cause,” it took place on the fest’s Thriver (new form of “survivor”) Saturday, along with eight other events, and was shaped as a luncheon and auction presented by Paris Parker Salons & Spas with Christine Clifford of The Cancer Club as the keynote speaker. The Ile de France Ballroom of the JW Marriott rocked with excitement for three hours. At least.

Twenty-four events were planned for the 2015 FestiGals weekend, the fifth one, that hailed “local event diva” Diane Lyons, owner of ACCENT on Arrangements, a meeting and greeting event planning company, as the fest’s creator. Approximately 2,000 women participated in the weekend’s programs, which included a breakfast that kicked off Empowerment Day. “Women Who Created a Storm of Change After Katrina” bannered that session that included, at breakfast, Anne Milling, Denise Thornton and Councilwoman LaToya Cantrell, as presenters, and moderator Diane Mack.

At “Bodacious” the following day, Cheryl Indelicato of Delicato Family Vineyards in Manteca, California, was slated as an additional speaker, along with keynoter Clifford. Cheryl cited the launch of HandCraft Artisan Collection wines “as the ultimate expressions of her lifestyle and history.” She has started “HandCraft Cares” to support causes such as breast cancer awareness. Selected HandCraft wines accompanied the three course menu of wild mixed greens salad, stuffed turbans of catfish, and shortcake with strawberries.

Features of the luncheon-auction-fashion show were myriad, starting with the Bloody Mary Mixer presented by Crystal Hot Sauce with thanks to Penny Baumer. The ballroom’s décor was designed by ACCENT on Arrangements as a glorious riot of tangerine, orange, fuchsia and pink, mostly hot. Varied oversize lamplight centerpieces with orange roses adorned the tables that had tangerine and fuchsia linens with matching napkins. The stage was flanked with eight-foot orange feather towers. During the course of the luncheon, artist Shannon Mullen of Save the Date Artistry created an on-site painting. Nancy Parker of Fox 8 and Mark Romig of the New Orleans Tourism Marketing Corp. teamed respectively as mistress of ceremonies and auctioneer. A bidding frenzy – all very exciting! — ensued for the decorated bras of the Bodacious Bra Challenge. Especially thrilled was Charmaine Caccioppe, who “won” Laurie Fleck’s “Beautiful Warrior” artwork.

Other highlights were the talk by humorist and author Christine Clifford, who is based in Minneapolis, Minnesota, and has survived cancer twice. She addressed, with her characteristic humor, the challenges women face in dealing with cancer. The Thriver Stein Mart Fashion Show was narrated by Joan Ingram, a show coordinator along with Laura Clotworthy and Terry Snyder. Survivors who have beaten cancer, such as luncheon honorary Chairwomen Kim Sport and Barbara Turner Windhorst, took to the runway. Others slated to model were Thrivers Tammy McCormick Broussard,

Therese Duke, Shawn Englade, Norma Grace, Eridania Martinez, Kerry Milton, Lisa Picone, Hannah Rucker, and Councilwoman Nadine Ramsey. A lone male, Jay Gernsbacher, joined their sartorial parade. Applause for all of them was huge.

Spirits were further buoyed by the boys! A surprise appearance by the FestiGuys, a spirited dance troupe in tails, pink sequined vests and shorts, treated the audience to such popular numbers as “Puttin’ on the Ritz” as they danced on the catwalk and then strutted among the tables of adoring women.

Loving every minute of the chockablock caper were FG founder Diane Lyons and husband Jack; Top Bra Challenge fundraisers Norma Grace, Mary Lou O’Keefe and LaKica Amos, whose teams were among the 30 that raised more than $31,000 online; and fundraising committee members Faith Peperone, Barbara Ballard, Stephanie Burks, Juliet Laughlin, Holley Haag, Jean Rice, Suzy Capitelli and Debbie Evans. Others among the scores were Sandra Dartus, Carolina Gallop, and Jane Caruso.

The four-day celebration came to a fitting cap. Brunch at Muriel’s Jackson Square on Sunday was the perfect conclusion for a weekend of networking and revelry. And to entertain, Vatican Lokey stepped forward with his “Cabaret Sauvignon.”