The stars shine as Essence Festival celebrates its 20th anniversary

Prince, Mary J. Blige and Lionel Richie to play main stage

Prince, Mary J. Blige, Lionel Richie, Jill Scott, Nas, Nile Rodgers, Janelle Monáe, Charlie Wilson and The Roots are among the dozens of music stars who’ll help the Essence Festival celebrate its 20th anniversary next weekend in New Orleans.

The first Essence Festival, staged in 1995 in honor of Essence magazine’s 25th anniversary, drew 150,000 attendees to the Superdome and injected $75 million into the local economy.

“It turned out to be an incredible success from the standpoint of so many people coming to New Orleans from practically every state in the union and overseas,” Edward Lewis, co-founder, chairman and chief executive officer of Essence Communications, Inc., told The Advocate in 1996.

The festival returned to New Orleans every year thereafter except 2006, when the Superdome was still in disrepair following Hurricane Katrina.

Essence musical performances will be staged in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome on the massive main stage and in multiple superlounges.

The festival’s free-of-charge empowerment seminars will take place at the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center. This year’s speakers include Alicia Keys, Bishop T.D. Jakes, Donnie McClurkin, Marc Morial, Edward Lewis, the Rev. Al Sharpton, Terry McMillan and Robin Roberts.

For more information about the Essence Festival and Essence Empowerment Experience, see Essence.com/festival.

Essence Music Festival

WHEN: Thursday, July 3-Sunday, July 6

WHERE: Mercedes-Benz Superdome, New Orleans

TICKETS: $40-$165, Thursday; $60-$575 single night tickets Friday-Sunday; VIP packages start at $1,100.

MAIN STAGE SCHEDULE

Thursday, July 3

7:30 p.m.: Jesse Boykins III

8 p.m.: Jazmine Sullivan

8:45 p.m.: K. Michelle

9:30 p.m.: Trey Songz

10:50 p.m.: Nas

Friday, July 4

8:20 p.m.: Janelle Monáe

9:20 p.m.: Nile Rodgers

10:30 p.m.: Prince

Saturday, July 5

7 p.m.: Tank

7:45 p.m.: Ledisi

8:50 p.m.: The Roots

10:10 p.m.: Jill Scott

11:30 p.m.: Mary J Blige

Sunday, July 6

7 p.m.: Tamar Braxton

7:50 p.m.: Erykah Badu

9:10 p.m.: Charlie Wilson

11 p.m.: Lionel Richie

SUPERLOUNGES SCHEDULE

Friday, July 4

7 p.m.: KING

7:25 p.m.: Leela James

7:25 p.m.: Greta Prince

7:25 p.m.: Kevin Ross

8:15 p.m.: Estelle

8:20 p.m.: Alice Smith

8:50 p.m.: Naughty By Nature

8:55 p.m.: Stephanie Mills

9:25 p.m.: SWV

Saturday, July 5

7:15 p.m.: Big Sam’s Funky Nation

7:25 p.m.: Kourtney Heart

7:30 p.m.: Daley

8:20 p.m.: Tevin Campbell

8:25 p.m.: Liv Warfield

8:30 p.m.: Marsha Ambrosius

9 p.m.: Doug E Fresh

9:50 p.m.: 112

10 p.m.: Michelle Williams

Sunday, July 6

7 p.m.: George Tandy Jr.

7:15 p.m.: The Pinettes

7:20 p.m.: Day26

7:30 p.m.: Sevyn Streeter

8:10 p.m.: Amel Larrieux

8:20 p.m.: Sebastian Mikael

8:25 p.m.: August Alsina

9:25 p.m.: Jagged Edge

9:35 p.m.: Robert Glasper

9:50 p.m.: Elle Varner

9:50 p.m.: Raheem DeVaughn

Empowerment Sessions

WHEN: Doors open 9 a.m. Thursday-Saturday and 8 a.m. Sunday

WHERE: Ernest N. Morial Convention Center, 900 Convention Center Blvd., New Orleans

ADMISSION: Free

Appearances and schedule are subject to change.