There is no better way to observe the nation’s freedom than the shake-the-rafters music celebration called Essence Fest. Held over Fourth of July weekend at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome, this three-day party named for its founder and sponsoring magazine combines high-octane music performances with inspirational speakers and provocative conversations about gender, race, culture and art.
The popular event brings a slew of big names to New Orleans for large evening performances, intimate lounge shows and DJ parties. Mary J. Blige, Puff Daddy, Beyonce and Mariah Carey are among the many who have headlined the event with local superstars such as Troy "Trombone Shorty" Andrews.
By day, the Empowerment Experience spotlights dozens of speakers like Deepak Chopra, the Clark sisters and the Rev. Al Sharpton to hash over thought-provoking topics such as religion, economics and education. These are traditionally free.
Dozens of vendors have displays set up in different locations around the Superdome and park areas that are temporarily turned into outdoor markets. You can expect to see a variety of quality fine art and crafts from clothing and jewelry, to collectible paintings and sculptures. All art displays and demonstrations will represent the rich culture developed from all over the African Diaspora.
There is also a pre-party day of service where attendees join leaders from local nonprofits for a day dedicated to supporting New Orleans with a community project.
The Essence Expo Experience includes seminars and workshops on a wide range of topics including beauty and style as well as power and finance. Attendees can participate in live tutorials, free consultations, fashion and makeup presentations and more.
Essence Festival was started in 1994 as a one-time event to celebrate the 25th anniversary of Essence, a magazine aimed towards African-American women. The festival was so well-received, organizers decide to make it an annual event. It has evolved into the nation’s premier showcase for contemporary African American music and culture.
There are many ticket options from single-day tickets to posh VIP packages. Some events are free with advance registration.
There are dozens of conveniently located hotels offering special deals for fest-goers. For a detailed list of participating hotels and more information on the event, as well as tickets, go to the festival’s website www.essence.com/festival.