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Essence leaves lasting impact

The twentieth anniversary of the Essence Festival is also it's most well attended. More than a half million visitors attended official events.

"Yeah, this was my first Essence experience. It was great," said Eartha Davis. "It was wonderful, wonderful. You can't beat it. If anybody hasn't been, they need to come."

More than 550,000 people attended the concerts and empowerment events.

"The crowds are so large, but everyone was happy and smiling and whoever you passed, wherever they were thank you or this is great and smiling and that's the Essence brand. That's the people of New Orleans," said Michelle Ebanks, President of Essence Communications.

"The economic impact is about $100 million, but the platform that Michelle and Joy have really kind of put forth sends out from here to the world. That's happening because of their relationships that they have built," explained Mayor Mitch Landrieu.

The event took what used to be a lackluster tourism weekend for New Orleans and made it one of the top Independence Day destinations.  

"Twenty years ago, if you would have come to New Orleans on the Fourth of July you would find hotels that were about 3 percent occupied," added Landrieu. "As of last night, the reports from the Hotel Motel Association was that we had 96-97 percent occupancy."

While the entertainment and economic impact are major parts of the Essence Festival, organizers and the city are more excited about the community development.

"When you leave, you always leave this community much better than you found it and on behalf of the people of this city of New Orleans I want to thank you so much," said Landrieu.

The free seminars on everything from health and beauty to personal finance and relationships are just one aspect of what Essence terms 'party with a purpose.'

The festival asks each of its artists and speakers to sponsor a project that benefits the local community.

"For us, really the highlight of this weekend is the deep community collaborations that we create that hopefully and in our minds have left a lasting impact here on the city as well as the communities that travel across the country to be here," said Joy Profet, Essence General Manager.

Plans for next year are already in the works with the 2015 Festival Commemorating the 45th anniversary of Essence Magazine. Organizers expect next year's festival to be an opportunity to focus on Essence's core mission as the largest lifestyle magazine for African American women.

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