NEW ORLEANS (AP) - Essence Festival's 25th "party with a purpose" has officially kicked off in New Orleans.
Mayor Latoya Cantrell welcomed participants during a news conference Thursday at Ashe Cultural Center. She says over the past 25 years, the festival has generated nearly $4 billion in economic revenue for New Orleans and the state of Louisiana.
Dennis Richelieu is chairman of Essence Ventures. Richelieu says the festival will now be known as the Essence Festival of Culture to "further embrace its evolution."
Earlier Thursday, a free 4th of July event at Armstrong Park launched the anniversary celebration. Several acts performed, including rappers MC Lyte and Common, Big Freedia, Stooges Brass Band, Drea Marie, Tonya Boyd Cannon and the Mardi Gras Indians.
The festival's free workshops open Friday in the convention center.