NEW ORLEANS (AP) — The Essence Music Festival is dropping the music — from its name, that is.
The festival held in New Orleans every July 4th weekend for the past 18 years has re-branded itself The Essence Festival to showcase the event as “more than a music festival,” said Michelle Ebanks, president of Essence Communications Inc.
The festival was started in 1995 to celebrate the 25th anniversary of Essence magazine. Besides concerts, the festival includes guest speakers and seminars on health, beauty, jobs, education, relationships and other topics covered in the magazine.
“Music is important, but Essence is so much more than music,” Ebanks said.
Still, music will remain a fun and exciting part of the festival, she said.
The 19th annual Essence Festival will be held July 4-7, and the lineup includes more than 30 acts — a number of them Essence veterans. On the roster: Jill Scott, Maxwell, New Edition, Charlie Wilson, Keyshia Cole, LL Cool J and Brandy.
Other talent will be announced next month, Ebanks said.
As in years past, the concert portion of the festival will be held at the Louisiana Superdome while empowerment seminars are held free of charge at the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center. The seminars will include panels led by the Rev. Al Sharpton, U.S. Rep. John Lewis, D-Ga., and educator Steve Perry.
The Superlounge stages inside the corridors of the Superdome this year will feature crowd pleasers such as Mint Condition, Blackstreet, Big Daddy Kane, Leela James, Bridget Kelly, Jody Watley, Mia Borders, Les Nubians and Anthony David.
In addition, there will be an all-star gospel tribute to Pastor Donnie McClurkin and Tramaine Hawkins.
Last year, the festival added a fourth day and drew a total of 413,000 attendees with a lineup that included Aretha Franklin, Mary J. Blige, Chaka Khan and D’Angelo. That was down slightly from the 422,000 who gathered for the festival in 2011, when it ran for three days.
The fourth day was geared for youth with a lineup that included Diggy Simmons, the OMG Girlz and Roshon Fegan.
This year the fourth day, which is opening day and falls on July 4, will focus on family and include barbeque, music and special events geared for all ages, Ebanks said.
Essence concert tickets are on sale, with weekend packages starting at $130.
Sponsors include presenting sponsor Coca-Cola and major sponsor Walmart.