(CelebrityAccess News Service) – Marking its ninth successful year as a Fourth of July tradition, the Coca-Cola Presents the 2003 Essence Music Festival attracted 191,000 fans during the July 3-5 weekend in New Orleans–the third-largest gathering of attendees since the event was first held in 1995. Known as "the party with a purpose," the Essence Music Festival features free empowerment seminars from well-known speakers and community leaders during the day at the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center and live concerts from major artists at night in the Louisiana Superdome.
"The success of this year's Essence Music Festival is a testament to our magazine's ability to overcome adversity — whether it's the lingering effects of war, the lack of tourism, a tough economy, or the threat of a tropical storm," said Edward Lewis, Chairman and CEO of Essence Communications Partners. "This year's terrific turnout validates what we've always known — that despite what goes on in the world around us, African-Americans will continue to come together each and every year to celebrate the best of who we are."
Among the artists performing were Stevie Wonder, LL Cool J, Erykah Badu, Anita Baker, Chaka Khan, Mo'Nique, Smokey Robinson, Yolanda Adams and Maze featuring Frankie Beverly. In a once-in-a-lifetime appearance, several performers came together for an All-Star Tribute to Luther Vandross, including Patti LaBelle, Usher, Ashanti, Jaheim, Steve Harvey, Gerald Levert, Ronald Isley, Faith Evans, Kelly Price, and the Luther Vandross Band performing songs made famous by the recently-stricken singer. The tribute was hosted by Tom Joyner. Essence and the Festival's sponsors will make a contribution from the July 4 concert tickets sales to the American Diabetes Association, the American Stroke Association and A.R.C. of Essex County, which works with developmentally challenged individuals.
This year's empowerment seminars featured Magic Johnson, Donnie McClurkin, Iyanla Vanzant, Michael Eric Dyson and Donna Richardson, among many others.
The Coca-Cola Company was the Festival's title sponsor for the sixth consecutive year. The event was also sponsored in part by Chevrolet, Burger King, Anheuser-Busch Companies, makers of Budweiser, Luster Products Earth Secrets, Southwest Airlines, the official airline of The Essence Music Festival, HBO and the City of New Orleans. –edited by Bob Grossweiner and Jane Cohen