New Orleans, LA–Today, Mayor Mitch Landrieu, along with ESSENCE Festival officials and local tourism leaders, celebrated the huge success of the 19th annual ESSENCE Festival. ESSENCE officials estimate that more than 540,000 people attended the Fourth of July Holiday weekend festival, including more than 100,000 per day for the ESSENCE Empowerment Experience at the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center and 55,000 for the inaugural Family Reunion Day at Woldenberg Park.
View photos from this year’s ESSENCE Festival here and here.
“This year’s ESSENCE Festival was the best and biggest we have seen,” said Mayor Landrieu. “ESSENCE is creating an international platform to both celebrate culture and engage in critical conversations that affect our communities. This year we partnered with Mayors and officials from across the country at multiple events on the Empowerment Stage to engage in a dialogue about changing the culture of violence.”
Also for the first time this year, ESSENCE partnered with MSNBC to broadcast PoliticsNation with the Rev. Al Sharpton, Melissa Harris-Perry and other shows live throughout the weekend from the Convention Center. Mayor Landrieu participated in several interviews to talk about violence reduction and the NOLA FOR LIFE murder reduction strategy.
Tourism officials estimated the economic impact at well over $100 million. Although precise numbers are not available, reports from local hotels, restaurants and tourist attractions showed brisk business. Hotel occupancy, according to a survey of New Orleans Convention and Visitors Bureau member hotels, was at 97 percent for Friday, Saturday and Sunday.
Officials at New Orleans Louis Armstrong International Airport reported that planes were near capacity today with 17,742 departures.
Local restaurants and attractions also experienced increased activity. At Drago’s at the Hilton, business was 30% above the same four days in 2012, said co-owner and manager Tommy Cvitanovich. He said the restaurant sold 37,000 oysters over the past four days. The National World War II Museum reported that twice as many people visited the museum from Friday to Sunday than in the same period last year.
The first official ESSENCE Festival APP garnered 14,500 downloads and tripled ESSENCE mobile consumption throughout the weekend, ESSENCE officials said.
"The thousands of visitors that Essence Festival brought to New Orleans were found discovering the many neighborhoods of our city, proving that this iconic event has a broad impact on our entire hospitality industry," commented Mark Romig, president and CEO of New Orleans Tourism Marketing Corporation. "In addition, Essence has shown the nation that it is cool to be in New Orleans in the summer!"
The 2013 Essence Festival including performances by Beyonce, Brandy, Jill Scott, Maxwell, New Edition, Charlie Wilson, LL Cool J and Keyshia Cole, Trey Songz, Emili Sande, Janelle Monae, Jody Watley and New Orleans native PJ Morton. Celebrity guests included Comedian/Talk Show host Steve Harvey, Actress Niecy Nash, Commentator Roland Martin and Author Iyanla Vanzant.
ESSENCE found its home in New Orleans in 1995 as a celebration of the ESSENCE magazine’s 25th anniversary and has since made New Orleans as the definitive July 4th cultural destination for African Americans. Priceline.com recently announced French Quarter as the #1 destination for Fourth of July.
In case you missed it, click the links below to read local and national coverage of ESSENCE and NOLA FOR LIFE
The Times-Picayune: Essence Vigil honors mothers who have lost children to gun violence
MSNBC: Vigil celebrates lives lost to New Orleans gun violence
Huffington Post: 'Imagine A Future' Documentary Screened For 200 New Orleans Girls During Essence Festival
The Advocate New Orleans: Panel of mayors looks for solutions to violence in cities
The Times-Picayune: Mayors at Essence Fest argue programs to diminish violence are about more than compassion -- they're business imperatives
The Advocate New Orleans: Second-lining, soul-searching at 1st day of Essence
WWL-TV: Landrieu uses Essence to talk about New Orleans violence
MSNBC Politics Nation: Tackling gun violence from Chicago to New Orleans - Video