By Naomi Richard
(July 8, 2013) New York, NY—Over 540,000 attendees from around the globe descended upon New Orleans this Fourth of July weekend for the 19th annual ESSENCE Festival, making 2013 the largest in the event’s 19 year history.
With an expanded cultural focus and renewed emphasis on family, the 2013 ESSENCE Festival celebrated its community of ESSENCE readers with an exciting array of entertainment and empowerment events; featuring more than 50 world renowned and up-and-coming performing acts and over 120 of the world’s top artists, speakers, authors, leaders, innovators and celebrities.
“The ESSENCE Festival has grown to represent the tremendous joy and optimism that is present in the African-American community,” said ESSENCE Communications President Michelle Ebanks. “We celebrate our community of ESSENCE readers at the ESSENCE Festival—where we come together to connect to our culture and our community—and be renewed, inspired and transformed. This year’s record-breaking attendance is a testament to our purpose. We are extremely excited as we look forward to our 20th anniversary in 2014.”
“What a thrill to witness the overwhelming response from hundreds of thousands of attendees as we took ‘the page to the stage’ at the ESSENCE Empowerment Experience,” said ESSENCE’s top editor, Vanessa K. Bush. “Focusing on family, relationships, culture and community, ESSENCE programs the ESSENCE Empowerment Experience Stage each year to provide critical information, motivation, inspiration and practical solutions for the day-to-day challenges of our lives.”
Highlights of the 2013 ESSENCE Festival included:
· An incredible performance by Beyoncé to a packed Superdome stadium to close out the Festival, plus headliners Maxwell, New Edition, Charlie Wilson, Brandy, Jill Scott, Janelle Monaé, Trey Songz, Keyshia Cole and many others – comprising more than 50 R&B, pop, and soul artists across 5 stages each night at the Superdome
· The All-New ESSENCE Family Reunion Day hosting more than 55,000 people in Woldenberg Park featuringempowerment panels, family- friendly games and activities, exciting musical guests, delicious food from New Orleans’ best barbecue vendors, cooking competitions, fireworks and exciting musical guests
· An expanded 4-day ESSENCE Empowerment Experience at the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center – with participation from more than 120 speakers and attracting attendance of more than 100,000 people each day
· First-ever partnership with MSNBC to broadcast live throughout the weekend from the ErnestN.MorialConvention Center, featuring shows PoliticsNation and Melissa Harris Perry, among others
· First official ESSENCE Festival App garnered 14,500 downloads and tripled ESSENCE mobile consumption throughout the weekend. Plus, ESSENCE Festival was trending across social media, e.g. close to 50,000 Instagram posts and more than 24,000 uses of #essencefest on Twitter
· Standing-room only ESSENCE Empowerment Experience panels, presentations and keynote addresses:
o A live, standing-room only set of Family Feud hosted by Steve Harvey, plus a live on-site broadcast of the Steve Harvey Morning Show
o “Ending the Gun Violence Crisis In Our Cities” (featuring Newark Mayor Cory Booker and Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed)
o “50th Anniversary of 1963” (featuring Congressman John Lewis, Myrlie Evers Williams, Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton)
o “Where Smart Starts” discussing education( featuring Dr. Steve Perry and Dr. Michael Lomax of UNCF)
o Keynote addresses from Rev. Al Sharpton, Iyanla Vanzant, and Marc Morial
· First-time Love, Loss & Life tribute & prayer vigil for mothers who have lost children to violence in partnership with New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu
· Powerful All-Star Gospel Tribute to Tramaine Hawkins and Donnie McClurkin with a special message from Bishop Noel Jones
Sponsors of the 2013 ESSENCE Festival™ include presenting sponsor Coca-Cola and major sponsors Ford, McDonald’s, My Black Is Beautiful, State Farm, Verizon and Walmart as well as official sponsors MSNBC, Coors Light, TV One and Visa Prepaid.
The 2013 ESSENCE FESTIVAL™ is executive produced by Essence Festivals LLC, a division of Essence Communications Inc. (ECI). GeChar is the executive producer of the 2013 ESSENCE Empowerment Experience Stage.