- Associated Press - Friday, August 22, 2014

NEW ORLEANS (AP) - The Essence Festival will remain in New Orleans, at least for the next five years, organizers said Friday.

Essence announced the contract extension, noting the annual celebration of African-American music and culture will remain in the city through 2019.

“Lt. Governor Jay Dardenne and Mayor Mitch Landrieu, along with their teams, have embraced the Essence Festival as their own,” said Essence Communications Inc. President Michelle Ebanks in a news release. “Through collaboration, we have created a one-of-a-kind experience that enables the community to revel in culture, be entertained, informed and inspired within the rich heritage that only New Orleans can provide.”

NOLA.com/The Times-Picayune reports (http://bit.ly/1v6vUvV ) the festival is held over the July 4th weekend and includes nighttime ticketed concerts in the Superdome and free, daytime seminars at the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center.

Recently, Essence has expanded its footprint to include a free, mini-festival in Woldenberg Park, alongside the Mississippi River. Private events and parties also fill other venues around town.

The festival launched in 1995 as a one-time celebration to mark the 25th anniversary of Essence Magazine. The success of that first year convinced organizers to make it an annual event.

In 2014, the festival celebrated its 20th anniversary. Prince nearly sold out the Superdome on the festival’s first full night. (Because seats cannot be sold behind the massive stage, the capacity of the Superdome for Essence is approximately 45,000, significantly less than for a Saints game.) Other featured acts included Mary J. Blige, Lionel Richie, Charlie Wilson and Jill Scott.

Many thousands more attended the daytime sessions, where speakers ranged from Alicia Keys and Robin Roberts to Steve Harvey and Al Sharpton.

The event’s estimated annual economic impact exceeds $200 million, organizers have said.

Over the years, other cities, including Atlanta, have attempted to lure the festival away from New Orleans. The only festival staged outside New Orleans was in 2006 when it was moved to Houston’s Reliant Park while the Superdome was undergoing repairs following Hurricane Katrina.

Attendees generally agreed that New Orleans, with its multitude of venues within easy walking distance of hotels and the French Quarter, was a far better fit for the Festival.

“The Essence Festival has become an integral part of New Orleans and Louisiana from a tourism standpoint,” Dardenne said. “We are pleased that the partnership we’ve built with Essence will continue for another five years.”

“This event attracts artists and participants from around the world and creates an international platform to both celebrate culture and engage in critical conversations that affect our communities,” Landrieu said. “In addition, the festival creates a lasting economic impact in our city and has positioned New Orleans as a top Fourth of July destination.”


Information from: The Times-Picayune, http://www.nola.com

Copyright © 2016 The Washington Times, LLC.

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