Essence Fest attendance reaches a milestone; local biz owners say the event is good for profits

Essence Fest attendance reaches a milestone; local biz owners say the event is good for profits
Updated: Jul. 9, 2018 at 7:32 PM CDT
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NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - This year's Essence Festival reached a milestone, according to Essence Communications.

For the first time in the festival's 24-year history, all of the nightly concerts in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome sold out.

Mere hours after Janet Jackson left the dome's stage the airport had long lines with Essence Fest attendees beginning to head back home.

"It was awesome, this was my first trip here. I had a great time, the parties, day parties, just being around beautiful women," said Priscilla Hall.

"It was good, I think it was a l bit more people than they expected, but it was good, good time," Shawn Moore stated.

"I have a bucket list and it was one of the items on bucket list, so I was looking forward to crossing it off of the list," said Ava Washington as she prepared to depart the city.

As many checked out of downtown hotels Monday, other Essence Fest visitors seemed not to be in a rush to leave the Big Easy.

Dozens lined up outside Mother's Restaurant during the lunch hour, others could be seen strolling the Central Business District streets.

For its part, Essence Communications said Monday the festival attracted more than 510,000 attendees to its various activities over the four day event.

A local tourism official said they rely on Essence' attendance tally.

Hall said she decided to bet on the Essence experience for the first-time after seeing a 2017 big screen movie titled "Girls Trip", filmed during a previous Essence Festival which featured Queen Latifah and Jada Pinkett-Smith.

"I've never gone to Essence and I'm going to be honest with you, Girls Trip, the movie," said Hall.

"Typically, I come with my husband, so this year it was a different experience with girlfriends. A lot of people though, a lot more than usual so I think the movie is what amped up the attendance," said IIsha Patterson.

Sean Bowie and his partner own a limousine company. He said this year's Essence Fest crowds kept his vehicles on a roll.

"It's been great. This was the biggest Essence I have seen," said Bowie.

He is eager for the festival to return next year.

"Business has been good for everybody, restaurants, car service, everything's been perfect," added Bowie.

And while tourism leaders tell us that hotel occupancy through the weekend was expected to be 98%, the short-term rental industry apparently also did very well.

"We have Ohio represented here, Georgia, Alabama, Texas," said Tequilia Colvin, who secured a house for she and her girlfriends.

She said staying in a home gave she and her friends private time to catch up.

"This house provided unity for us, we were able to have the space to ourselves without having to share it with strangers," said Colvin.

Robert Ripley, an agent with French Quarter Realty said he rents out his home and other properties for short-term rentals and that the Essence Festival is always great for business.

And those departing the city left with memories galore.

"Oh, absolutely, we had to do Ms. Jackson. She ended the show with a bang," said Colvin.

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