Essence Festival celebrates its 20th anniversary

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by WWL TV

wwltv.com

Posted on July 6, 2014 at 2:12 AM

Jaclyn Kelley / Eyewitness News
Email: jkelley@wwltv.com | Twitter: @jkelleyWWL

New Orleans, La. -- For the second day in a row, thousands of people converged on the Mercedes-Benz Superdome to see some of their favorite artists.

Siterian Gregory has been coming to Essence Fest since she was 12 years old. And, the Florida native says the family tradition makes coming to Essence Fest feel like she’s coming back home to family, year after year.

“It’s fantastic,” Gregory says. “It’s grown incredibly. A lot of people are now taking this as a legitimate event every year. And, the talent just keeps coming. The people just keep coming, and what I am seeing now is that it’s reaching beyond just the African American community.”

Of course, the 20th Anniversary will not be complete without a star-studded line up with headliners like Prince, who kicked off the holiday weekend with a energetic performance fans say they won’t forget.

Timothy Breton is from Pensacola and says this is his fifth year coming to Essence. “We got to see the show of a lifetime last night, The Essence Festival with Prince, Niel Rogers,” Breton says. “It was a blast.”

Siterian Gregory agrees, “Ah, I can’t put into words how awesome Prince’s concert was last night.”

And while Essence Fest is all about the music, it’s always been a party with a purpose.

“The purposeful side of this may not be obvious to someone, but it’s really a critical component as it’s been from the very beginning,” says former New Orleans mayor and president of the National Urban League, Marc Morial.

The former New Orleans mayor talked about bringing Essence Fest to New Orleans for the very first time during his first term as mayor, and says from the start it was always about getting Essence to call New Orleans its permanent home.

And on Saturday, the festival’s 20th anniversary, Morial says he could not be more proud of what Essence Festival has become. “I mean, it was big in the beginning,” he says. “Now, it’s big to the square. It’s huge – it’s humongous. It’s really grown. It’s really institutionalized itself.”

 

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