The Essence Music Festival is one of the biggest celebrations in New Orleans every year. Usually scheduled for the weekend of July 4th, the festival draws huge crowds for both its music and its celebration of black culture. Essence Fest draws the best of both national and local acts, with a strong representation of both the commercial sounds of rap, hip-hop, R&B, gospel and the local flavor of brass bands, jazz, and blues.
Essence Fest began in 1995, and has since stayed in New Orleans, except for 2006 in the aftermath Hurricane Katrina. During that time, the festival has continued to grow. The New Orleans Convention and Visitors Bureau reported that approximately 400,000 people were in attendance for 2010’s Essence Music Festival (compared to approximately 1 million visitors for Mardi Gras 2010), and those numbers have held steady ever since.
Essence is much more than just a series of concerts. Attendees have the opportunity to interact with artists, experts and speakers to explore black culture and help empower others. Through a series called EmpowerU, festival goers can attend free workshops on everything from creating budgets and starting businesses to single parenting and flirting tips. Essence is also partnering with Prince to sponsor the #YesWeCode Hackathon, where almost 200 of the tech industry's brightest developers, designers, and influential business professionals will work alongside 50 high potential youth to solve problems. The main goal of the hackathon is to transform neighborhoods into thriving communities where everyone experiences success regardless of race, gender, abilities or other factors.