Big Names to Attend Music Festival

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — A lineup of big names has led to a big increase in the number of people planning to attend this year's Essence Music Festival.

"Our ticket sales this year are up about 60 percent to date as compared to last year. So we're thrilled," said Letena Spriggs Lindsay, spokeswoman for the Essence Music Festival.

The festival, a three-day gathering featuring seminars in the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center during the day and musical performances in the Louisiana Superdome at night, drew approximately 195,000 people to New Orleans in 2001, Lindsay said.

Lindsay attributes this year's increase in ticket sales to the big names performing at the concerts. "Our talent lineup for the first night is one of the strongest we've ever had. We have Alicia Keys, India.Arie, Luther Vandross, Gerald Levert and Cedric the Entertainer — two Grammy nominees and one Grammy winner. It is certainly drawing a lot of attention for people to come the first night and stay on throughout the festival," she said.

Hotel occupancy rates are reflecting the upswing in festival ticket sales. "Occupancies are probably in the 80 percent range. A significant amount of that can be attributed to the Essence Festival," said Bill Langkopp, executive vice president of the Greater New Orleans Hotel-Motel Association.

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On the Net: http://www.essence.com

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