Essence Fest

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Essence Fest

The Essence Fest got its start in the early 1990s, when Essence Magazine – a pub for African American women – sought out a home for an annual music festival.

Naturally, New Orleans rose to the top of the list. As the birthplace of jazz and a cradle of rock and roll, R&B and many other musical genres, there’s no better place for a music festival. (Just ask Jazz Fest.)

Essence Fest is four days of music, culture, empowerment and entertainment, according to its founders. Evening concerts feature in excess of 40 acts, taking place across five stages at the Louisiana Superdome.

Headliners for the 2018 festival, held July 5 to 8, include:

  • Janet Jackson
  • Mary J. Blige
  • Erykah Badu and Jill Scott, with special guests Snoop Dogg and others, curated by The Roots, Xscape, Fantasia and Miguel

There is a Main Stage, as well as four separate lounge areas. The lounge performances fill up quickly, so arrive in advance to get a good spot.

Aside from musical performances, Essence Fest welcomes an array of celebrity guests who love posing for photos and giving autographs. Lines can get long, so plan in advance who you want to meet.

What to Know

  • Come with cash, because food and drink vendors are reportedly high priced.
  • Arrive early for the free events and get your hands on the swag before they run out.
  • Download the Essence Fest app on your phone for a list of events and the weekend schedule.
  • Fashion is everything at Essence Fest, so while you want to be comfortable, this is also an opportunity to show off your personality and style.
  • There’s a karaoke room where you can take your friends and family to sing along to some of your favorite artists (who might even be performing at Essence).
  • This is a seated event in the Superdome — people will be dancing, but it is not an open field-style festival.

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