R&B music lovers flocked to New Orleans to celebrate the 20th anniversary of ‘The Essence Festival’ this year, heading South to celebrate four days of live shows put on by the likes of Prince, Janelle Monae and Mary J.Blige.
Today, one year after seeing Beyonce rock the event, the festival celebrates the success of this year’s show, after it became its highest-attended showing to date!
Pulling 10,000 more fans than it did last year, this year’s event drew in 550,000 people, cementing the event’s status as one of the world’s biggest live shows, thanks to 80 musical performances and 150 speakers who used the platform to speak out against crime and celebrate the strides made by entrepreneurs up and down the country.
On the wonderful news, Essence Communications Inc. president Michelle Ebanks shared:
I woke up this morning and felt a great sense of pride and gratitude.
“For us the highlight is the deep community collaborations we created that hopefully have left a lasting impact on the city,” said Joy Profet, general manager of Essence.
She noted that 200 young girls and boys created and pitched new apps and web-based solutions as part of the #YesWeCode initiative, and an entrepreneur won $25,000 in seed capital as part of the PowerMoves Nola program for budding business owners.
Ebanks and Profet thanked Mayor Mitch Landrieu for the city’s ongoing partnership, which officially ended as the final year of its current contract expired at the conclusion of this year’s event. Both Landrieu and Ebanks said they’re committed to locking the festival into a new deal, but several pieces to the puzzle remained in flux.
“This is our home and Essence is better because it’s held in New Orleans and in this state,” Ebanks said. “We’re working through the (contract renewal) process and once we work through all the details, we’ll let you know the outcome.”
Landrieu recalled that before the festival launched 20 years ago, the city was dead in terms of visitors over the July 4th holiday. He said hotel bookings were at about 3 percent compared to today when occupancy over that same weekend is now consistently at about 97 percent each year.
“Twenty years ago, we weren’t a destination city. Today, we’re either No. 1 or 2 in the country,” he said.
“I’m overwhelmed and overjoyed when Essence comes,” he said, adding that “it’s the kind of content this event delivers that’s most impactful and when you leave, you always leave the community better than when you found it.”
Ebanks said they’ve already begun work on next year’s event, which coincides with the 45th anniversary of the magazine.