NEW ORLEANS - Essence Fest takes center stage this weekend with some of the most popular musical acts in the business.
Thousands of festival goers converged to the New Orleans Convention Center for the kick off Friday.
The weekend includes a long list of celebrity appearances, and a mission of community.
Michelle Ebanks, Essence President of Communications said, “People leave here and their lives are changed. It is just a wonderful experience and we are so proud it is the Essence Festival."
As crowds make their way to the convention center, all eyes are on the city's security.
After a shootout on Bourbon Street last weekend claimed the life of a 21-year-old Hammond woman, a beefed up police presence is being felt all through the downtown area.
Dozens of state troopers have been called in for additional security as police are still searching for those responsible.
Tomiceana Wilson is visiting from Colorado and said, “I always feel safe here. The police presence is definitely being felt. There are ten officers on every corner so I don't feel unsafe here at all."
Trina Matthews from Baton Rouge said, “New Orleans has the resilience to bounce back and that was isolated. Things happen all the time. Bourbon Street is very known area."
This is the fifth Essence Fest for Shawn Brundidge and his friends. With Prince headlining Friday night, he said it's one he couldn't miss.
“It's a great time,” Brundidge said. “We meet friends from all over the country here. We fellowship, get some good food and enjoy the concerts in the process."
More than half a million people visited in 2013 and this year's festival is shaping up to be the largest yet.