Essence Festival is back in New Orleans after a pandemic-related hiatus

Published: Jun. 30, 2022 at 8:20 PM CDT
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Essence CEO is hugged as she prepared to speak at a kickoff press conference for the 2022...
Essence CEO is hugged as she prepared to speak at a kickoff press conference for the 2022 Essence Festival of Culture in New Orleans, La.(Source: WVUE)

NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - The Essence Festival of Culture kicked off Thursday in New Orleans. It is the first time in two years that the event is being held in person.

Caroline Wanga is CEO of Essence.

“We’re in New Orleans, we’re having a festival,” said Wanga.

The COVID-19 pandemic caused the popular festival to go virtual for 2020 and 2021 but now it, along with thousands of attendees, is back in New Orleans for the multi-day event.

Mayor Latoya Cantrell attended the opening day press conference along with the owner and other leaders of Essence.

“The City of New Orleans is so excited to host the Essence Festival of Culture once again in our city after a two-year hiatus. We’re prepared and we’re more ready than ever before,” said Cantrell.

Wanga, a former Target executive, said Essence and New Orleans are in an unbreakable relationship.

“The Essence Festival of Culture is never leaving the City of NOLA, the Essence Festival of Culture is never leaving the city of NOLA,” she repeated to a packed audience of Essence fest sponsors, supporters and journalists.

She said Vice President Kamala Harris, the first female and person of color to be VP, will take part in the festival.

“Even sister Kamala is coming to sit with us on Saturday,” Wanga said to applause.

Despite the two-year in-person hiatus, the festival is attracting a lot of people to New Orleans this year.

Cantrell said as in the past, the city’s hospitality industry is benefitting.

“We know that the investments in our economy are real, we know that over 90% of our hotels and motels are, the occupancy mirrors that of 2019 and we also understand that that is only a snapshot, that doesn’t capture folks who will be short-term rentals or coming and staying with family and friends,” said Cantrell.

It is the 27th year of an event that began in New Orleans and from the sounds of it, it is here to stay.

“We can’t exist separately, in Katrina tried it once so we had to go to Houston, love Houston but it ain’t it,” said Wanga.

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