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Summer Of OWN Essence Fest Cocktail Party

Source: Peter Forest / Getty

The 2020 Essence Fest has been canceled after the Mayor of New Orleans decided to propose an extended ban on large events to combat the spread of COVID-19.

On Wednesday (Apr 15) Essence festival organizers announced that the iconic festival would be canceled for this year after city officials announced and New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell recommended that no large events take place in the city for the remainder of the year.

“After continued monitoring of the evolving developments in the COVID-19 global pandemic and remaining in close contact and collaboration with our partners in the City of New Orleans and the State of Louisiana, we are confirming today that we will no longer move forward with the 2020 ESSENCE Festival of Culture live experience—and look forward to returning to New Orleans in 2021,” festival organizers said.

Although visitors won’t be able to experience the historic festival in person organizers announced that the four-day music and wellness event will be completely virtual for the first time ever over July Fourth weekend. The multi-day extravaganza doubles as a benefit celebration and will extend the festival experience to communities around the globe offering up interactive and “live opportunities to be inspired,” and entertained. The virtual festival will be coupled with a benefit celebration honoring the Big Easy, which has been home to the Essence Festival for 26 years.

“ESSENCE and the City of New Orleans have a partnership that thrives in good times and is made even stronger in challenging times,” said Mayor Cantrell. “We share an uncompromised commitment to the best interest of our local community and our tourist community, and the priorities right now are providing support to those who have been affected by the disproportionate impact of the pandemic here in New Orleans and ensuring a safe and healthy environment for all. We look forward to welcoming everyone back to our great city in 2021 for the return of the ESSENCE Festival of Culture and to once again helping to create such an unmatched and magical experience.”

Essence also responded to the decision with full support, acknowledging that safety has always been a priority of Essence and organizers, before adding that refunds will be available for those who purchased their tickets early and don’t wish to transfer it to 2021’s festival.

“From the beginning, we have shared that the health, safety, and well-being of our Festival-goers, local citizens and others who contribute to making the Festival such a unique experience were our top concerns and would be the foremost considerations in our decision-making,” organizers said in a statement. “While we initially hoped that a reschedule from our July 2020 dates to later in the fall would be feasible, current information and projections by public health officials and agencies have made it increasingly clear that any large-scale events this year could potentially and unnecessarily put attendees and surrounding communities at risk.  So, what would have typically been a very difficult decision for us was not because people come first, and we will continue to do everything that we can to serve our community during this time.  We will honor all tickets sold for the 2020 Festival in 2021 and will also offer full refunds.”

In addition to the virtual event, ESSENCE created the ESSENCE of the Matter: COVID-19’s Impact on Black America, a digital platform to provide Black women and communities with the tools, information, resources, solutions, inspiration, and empowerment needed to address the multitude of issues arising from this pandemic; with the first-ever virtual ESSENCE Wellness House and ESSENCE CARES Act information sessions scheduled for Friday, April 24.

For more information about ESSENCE of the Matter, visit here.

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