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NEWORLEANS -- Leaders of the 19th annual Essence festival will provide a renewed focus on family Thursday by introducing its first, free and open-to-the-public 'Family Reunion Day.'

The event will host a variety of local acts ranging from Gina Brown to the Brass-A-Holics, the Stooges Brass Band and Water Seed from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. at Woldenberg Park.

Officials said these full day performances will also host artists like Cupid and DJ Biz Markie and end with a fireworks show at 9 p.m.

'New Orleans continues to be a terrific partner,'Essence President Michelle Ebanks said. 'The administration's focus on creating stronger families is at the heart of what we do at Essence and what we will bring to life at the Essence Festival.'

Attendees can watch celebrity chef cooking competitions during the event's Food Experience Stage.

Children events range from facepainting to having hands-on experiences with animals through its partnership with the Audubon Nature Institute, officials said.

Local artist Master P. will host a free panel on motivational success and more alongside New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu's NOLAForLife program from noon to 3 p.m. at the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center.

'We're pleased that this year's festival will provide an international platform for the issues we are addressing in our city every day,' Mayor Mitch Landrieu said.

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