The Essence Music Festival wraps up its 14th year with musical performances Sunday in the Louisiana Superdome, headlined by Grammy Award-winner Mary J. Blige and comedian Chris Rock but that was not the only draw for thousands of festival goers.
Danae Green, of Pittsburgh, Calif., said she was enthralled by the free empowerment seminars and marketplace sponsored by the festival and held inside the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center.
"This is just my second year attending," Green said as she looked at jewelry on display. "I had a good time at the concerts, but I didn't know all this was going on."
Sunday's seminars included performances by gospel stars Tye Tribett and Regina Belle as well as inspirational words from televangelist Juanita Bynum.
Green said last year she didn't even venture into the convention center.
"It's different this time," she said. "I'm enjoying the food, the artists and the vendors. I was able to attend the worship service. I'll definitely be back."
Reggie Wilson of Atlanta said he and his family have turned attending the festival into an annual affair.
"I really enjoy it," he said. "We've made it into a reunion. It's one of the few times of the year that we're able to meet up together as a family. The empowerment seminars are great, the concerts are the bomb and I'll keep coming back as long as they keep having it."
The Superdome's main stage acts Sunday also include Morris Day and The Time and Maze featuring Frankie Beverly. Maze has closed out the festival each year since it began in 1995.
Saturday night's lineup included LL Cool J, Musiq, Jill Scott and a tribute to soul diva Patti LaBelle.