PORTLAND — The ballrooms at the Holiday Inn by the Bay were packed Friday night with more than 1,500 women who attended A Dash of Diva: Girls’ Night Out, an event to bring women together for food, wine, entertainment and dancing.

Also at the event were representatives from a range of local businesses, among them restaurants, wine and beer makers, health care organizations, makeup companies, dating services and law firms.

“It’s awesome. There are lots of great vendors on hand,” said Melanie Harvey, 46, of Poland. “I tried a Belgian beer and Sassy Bitch Wine.”

Harvey, who paid $25 for an early admission ticket, arrived at the event with eight friends.

“There is nothing else like this going on, especially not for women,” said Tracy Moore, owner of the Bay Club fitness center in Portland.

Moore, who attended as a vendor, called the event an excellent opportunity for her to raise awareness about her business.

Girls’ Night Out also included a “Divas Who Dare Awards” ceremony, highlighting women who have overcome hardship and inspired others.

The winners included cancer research and patient support advocate Julie Marchese of Cumberland, mental health champion Joan Houghton of Yarmouth, weight loss advocate Laurie Secord of Westbrook (who lost nearly 150 pounds) and Brenda Emerson of Windham and her daughter Jordan, 16, who together have fought the after-effects of a car accident that nearly killed Jordan in 2007.

Entertainment included West African-inspired music by Inanna, Sisters in Rhythm, a performance by The Kenya Hall Band, a group psychic reading, a fashion show and belly dancing.

Ticket prices ranged from $12 for general admission to $25 for admission to the Very Important Diva pre-party.

The event was held by MaineToday Media, publisher of The Portland Press Herald/Maine Sunday Telegram. A portion of proceeds will go to the Maine Women’s Fund, a group that supports economic improvement and leadership programs.

Proceeds will also fund two scholarships for female students at the University of Southern Maine.

A Dash of Diva is in its second year. Friday’s gathering was the fourth event this year.

There was a “Sex and the City 2 Night” at Cinemagic in Saco in May, a “Shopping Extravaganza” at the Maine Mall in August, and a “DivaTina Challenge” in September.

The event was sponsored by Hannaford. Media partners included television station WGME-13 and radio station Coast 93.1.

 

Staff Writer Jonathan Hemmerdinger can be reached at 791-6316 or at: [email protected]