The Essence Festival will call New Orleans home for five more years.
Although Essence Communications, which owns the festival, and Mayor Mitch Landrieu’s office have not made an official announcement about the commitment, the City Council voted Thursday to authorize the mayor to sign an “event support agreement” between the city and Essence Festival Productions. The agreement commits the city to pay certain fees and provide security services during the festival through 2019.
“This is good news for us,” Landrieu aide Eric Granderson told the council. “Essence has agreed to extend their participation in having New Orleans as a host city for the next five years.”
Essence’s previous agreement with the city, a four-year renewal, expired this year. Under that deal, Essence received $1 million, a mix of cash and in-kind services, each year from the city and various agencies including the New Orleans Metropolitan Convention and Visitors Bureau and the Louisiana Department of Culture, Recreation and Tourism. The money is used to pay for police, fire and sanitation services during the festival as well as marketing and production.
Details of the new agreement weren’t available Thursday.
The Essence Festival has been held in New Orleans since its debut in 1995. In that time, it was held outside the city only once, in 2006, when it shifted to Houston following Hurricane Katrina.
The four-day music and empowerment festival usually takes place over the July 4 holiday weekend, with events occurring primarily at the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center and the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.
The 20th anniversary festival this year, which featured more than 80 musical performances including a sold-out show by Prince, drew record attendance of more than 550,000.
At the end of the 2014 festival, the city and Essence had not yet reached a new contract, but Essence officials made clear they intended to keep the festival in the city.
“This is our home and Essence is better because it’s held in New Orleans and in this state,” Essence Communications President Michelle Ebanks said in July. “We’re working through the (contract renewal) process, and once we work through all the details, we’ll let you know the outcome.”
Essence is considered a bright spot for the city’s tourism industry, which slows down tremendously during the summer.
“The Essence Festival has been key in turning summertime in New Orleans into a much sought-after time to visit our city,” said Mark Romig, president and chief executive officer of the New Orleans Tourism Marketing Corp.
“We commend the mayor and the City Council as well as our industry partners for taking this step to help solidify Essence’s presence for years to come.”