Essence Festival's daytime events pack the convention center - FOX 8, WVUE,, weather, app, news, saints

Essence Festival's daytime events pack the convention center

Festival goers pack the floor of the Essence Marketplace on Friday. Festival goers pack the floor of the Essence Marketplace on Friday.

New Orleans, La.—With thousands already taking part in Essence Festival activities at the Morial Convention Center, many others were checking into downtown hotels Friday for the festival which wraps up on Sunday.

"I'm ready for New Orleans weather," said Rebecca Jackson of Houston as she sported a rain coat outside a downtown hotel.

"This is like my fifth and I'm excited, it's always been a great experience," said Sherrie Mayo of North Carolina after getting out of a taxi at the Hilton Hotel.

Anticipation was building over what this year's festival would offer.

"There are activities in the convention center, the concerts and just everyone being together in a happy place," stated Natasha Bess, also of North Carolina.

It is the 19th annual Essence Festival. It is an event that will put big name entertainers like Beyonce, Jill Scott, Maxwell and Charlie Wilson on the stage inside the Superdome.

"Incredible, one word, absolutely incredible," said Andre Walters of Baltimore.

A group of friends from Houston said this is their first Essence festival.

"We have tickets to the concerts, we're going to workshops, we're just here for the fun," said Corliss Denman.

And they plan to take in every ounce of the festival's program.

"Lots of good sessions, lots of empowerment, lots of positive role models," said Jackson.

By midday, hundreds were involved in a Zumba workout on the floor of the Convention Center which was turned into a giant marketplace.

In the great hall of the convention center, thousands listened as nationally known speakers led empowerment seminars.

Brenda Jenkins traveled from New Jersey to experience what she had heard about.

"The empowerment is about health, a lot of information so I'm very excited about that." Are you going to take in some of the great New Orleans food? "Oh, my God it is so great, the plate is this big, yes I have, I had the crab cakes, red beans and rice," she said.

As people strolled the convention center they easily spoke of the love for the event.

"Oh, we're loving it, we've seen lots of celebrities," said Debbie Jaccoks of Ohio.

Essence vendors showed off unique wares.

Hat vendor Shirley Wilfred of Wilfred Designs has been selling eye catching hats at the festival for years.

"It's always good, it's a wonderful experience, you get to meet such nice people and you get to meet repeat people who come every year," she said.

Bill Hart and his wife sells colorful clothing. He was stocking up for days of anticipated sales.

"I'm waiting for Fed Ex to come here now for some more stuff because this is nothing that we have," said Hart.

While many attendees plan months ahead of the festival, some said their presence was definitely not a fore-thought.

"It was by accident. We planned to come to New Orleans and we didn't know the festival was going on and then we got to the airport we really saw people coming," said Roger Jones of New York.

He and his female companion were impressed.

"It's great," stated Evelyn Farmer.

And the rainy weather was taken in stride.

"I'm going to still make the best of my trip with my umbrella in my purse," said Mayo with a laugh.

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