The stars shine as Essence Festival celebrates its 20th anniversary The stars shine as Essence Festival celebrates its 20th anniversary Prince, Mary J. Blige and Lionel Richie to play main stage Advocate staff report July 22, 2014 Comments 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.