Essence breaks attendance records

IMAGE DISTRIBUTED FOR ESSENCE - From left, Tyrese Gibson, Ginuwine and Tank, of musical group TGT, perform at the Essence Festival at the Superdome on Sunday, July 7, 2013, in New Orleans. (Photo by Matthew Hinton/Invision for Essence/AP Images)
IMAGE DISTRIBUTED FOR ESSENCE - From left, Tyrese Gibson, Ginuwine and Tank, of musical group TGT, perform at the Essence Festival at the Superdome on Sunday, July 7, 2013, in New Orleans. (Photo by Matthew Hinton/Invision for Essence/AP Images)

The 2013 Essence Festival in New Orleans drew more than 540,000 attendees over the July 4th weekend. It was the largest attendance in the festival’s history.

The Essence Festival ended Sunday with a performance by Beyoncé at the sold-out Mercedes-Benz Superdome. The three nights of Essence performances at the Superdome also included Charlie Wilson, New Edition, Jill Scott and Trey Songz, more than 50 acts in all, as well as many between-show special guests.

Essence also presented more than 120 speakers at the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center, including Steve Harvey, Rev. Al Sharpton and Soledad O’Brien. Daily attendance at the convention center exceeded 100,000, the festival reported.

The Essence Festival expanded to four days this year, staging its first Family Reunion Day in Woldenberg Park, which drew more than 55,000 attendees.

“The Essence Festival has grown to represent the tremendous joy and optimism that is present in the African-American community,” Essence Communications President Michelle Ebanks said in a statement. “This year’s record-breaking attendance is a testament to our purpose. We are extremely excited as we look forward to our 20th anniversary in 2014.”