by Tribune Staff

Essence Entertainment Director Cori Murray says the first order of business after the 2018 Essence Festival wraps up on July 8, will be to sit down with Mayor LaToya Cantrell and other city officials to work out the details for a three-year deal to ensure that the Festival remains in New Orleans at least through 2021.

“We love being here and have every intention of coming back,” Murray said to a small group of local and regional journalists at the Essence media luncheon at the NOPSI hotel in late May. “This year is already on track to be the biggest ever.”

Describing New Orleans as a “walkable” city with an airport that is a relatively short commute form the city center compared to other major cities, Murray adds that New Orleans has a “vibe” that can’t be duplicated.

City and business leaders were also on hand to share their excitement and hopes surrounding the annual music and culture festival that has become as much a part of summer in New Orleans as sno-balls.

“This is such a great time for the city of New Orleans. On July 5 -8, we will welcome the biggest, baddest sister-girl conference in the world,” said Essence Harris Banks, president of the New Orleans Multicultural Tourism Network. “For the city of New Orleans, we couldn’t be happier. Last year, Essence Festival had an $18.7 billion impact on the city and state. We want to thank Essence Fest for coming here and being committed to our city.”

Speaking on behalf of the city,  Brice Miller, Ph.D., the director of cultural economy for the Cantrell administration said, “We’re privileged that Essence has chosen to make New Orleans its home, and we hope to continue for many years.”

Others used the event as an opportunity to send a reminder that New Orleans’ city and business leaders have work to do to ensure that economic wealth created by Essence and by the city’s tourism industry in general is enjoyed by all of the citizens of New Orleans

Referencing the city’s tens of thousands hospitality workers, many of whom earn at or near minimum wage, City Councilman-at-large Jason Williams said, “Culture has been the driving force behind the city’s economic engine; and in New Orleans, culture bubbles up from the street. But, the people who are the backbone of the (tourism) industry make the least. Our goal for the next 300 years is to share” the economic growth and development created by tourism.

The Festival Experience

Murray also shared festival news and updates.

While touting the fact the Janet Jackson and Queen Latifah have been added to the night-time concert line-up, Murray also reminded that local stars DJ Jubilee and Big Freedia are slated to perform as well, adding that including the local stars is a renewed commitment to highlighting local talent.

“How can we come to New Orleans and not have more New Orleans performers in the line-up,” she said. “The other big news is that we are Black-owned again. It’s been about 15 years. It’s something we are very proud of.”

Essence Festival’s newest feature is the curated daytime experience that aligns festival goers’ interests with specific events, seminars and activities taking place at the Earnest N. Morial Convention Center and throughout the city. Attendees ages 18 and older are encouraged to register to get a personalized recommendation “to make the most out of their experience.”

The expanded daytime experience will feature a new slate of interactive programming.  Incorporating talks, expos, roundtables, workshops, podcasts and more, the Festival’s daytime experience will be a convening summit that delivers on community connections, networking opportunities and interactive exhibitions.

“In addition to the signature concerts and other curated events that can only be found at Essence Festival, a critical part of what has made this a must-attend destination for a half million women annually are the community and individual enrichment experiences that are at the core of the Festival’s daytime programming,” said Essence President Michelle Ebanks. “The opportunities for attendees to engage around the themes of empowerment and personal transformation continue to be the driving force behind the Festival’s daytime experience.  Now, with the launch of ‘Conference & Expos,’ we are expanding and organizing our live content into programming tracks that focus the Festival’s engaging conversations, motivational forums and interactive workshops for an elevated and solutions-oriented experience.”

The 2018 Essence Festival Conference & Expos tracks include:

• Essence Tech: Conversations about the impact of technology in our daily lives and opportunities to pursue this holy grail of economic prosperity.

• Essence Entrepreneurship & Career: Resources to create your own business, grow your company or thrive in the career of your dreams.

• Essence Personal Finance: Motivation and guidance to tackle debt and explore next steps toward long-term financial security.

• Essence Beauty & Style: Bold beauty moments with fascinating conversations, fashion showcases, panels with ESSENCE Beauty editors, influencers, celebrity stylists and more on the ESSENCE Beauty & Style stage.

• Essence Entertainment: Top celebrities and ESSENCE Fest performers live on Center Stage and at the Fan Zone. Plus, exclusive films and shows in the Screening Room.

• Essence Wellness & Spirituality – Mind, body and soul conversations and experiences designed to help you live your best life.

• Essence Community & Culture: Opportunities to volunteer at the annual ESSENCE® Day of Service.  And, the country’s most influential voices on issues that matter most in our communities and strategies for navigating the road ahead.

• Essence Eats: Cultural cuisine from NOLA’s best cooks. Plus, celebrity and New Orleans’ chefs prepare their specialty dishes with live demos.

  Essence Shopping: Over 100 vendors offering, jewelry, clothing, art and more at the ESSENCE®Marketplace. Head over to the Bookstore for the latest book launches and meet your favorite authors at exclusive book signings.

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