Excitement surrounds Essence Festival kick-off

Excitement surrounds Essence Festival kick-off

NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - Essence Festival kicked off Thursday. Thousands of visitors have come to New Orleans to take part in the seminars, the concerts, and the speakers. The excitement surrounding the festival is only growing.

Essence Fest is here, and so are the thousands of visitors ready to experience everything the 24th annual festival has to offer. Aside from the food and drink, visitor Brittany Dandy says this is a weekend for culture.

"I'm here because it's a celebration of black women. It's great to see people gather in the south," she said.

As an entrepreneur, Dandy says Essence Fest lends skills and information she'll take forward in her life.

"It's making me beyond happy to be a part of it and see how to grow and learn and be young and vibrant in this space," she said.

One of the festival's focuses this year: building leaders in business and growing household wealth.

It may be one weekend, but mayor LaToya Cantrell put into perspective how much of a money maker Essence Fest is for the city.

"Twenty-four years ago the economic impact then was resting around 80 to 100 million. Today, that economic impact has grown to over 250 million," said Cantrell.

Cantrell said that's one of the reasons why the city's committed to their partnership with Essence Festival and the festival's true mission.

"Having that Essence focus on empowering women to see the beauty we have within that's not just focused on what's outside," she said.

Michelle Ebanks says when the festival can continue to make partnerships to empower black women, all communities will thrive.

Ebanks said the growth of the festival is also reflected in the convention center.

They've grown from using 750,000 square feet of the space to 900,000 square feet.

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