Thousands of people from Louisiana and elsewhere swarmed the Essence Festival of Culture during the Fourth of July weekend as Essence and the city celebrated a 30-year relationship.

As the festival revved up, New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell said about 500,000 people were likely to attend this year's festival. That's an impressive number, but our boots-on-the-ground daily reporting indicated an Essence crowd even larger than that.

Actual, more specific numbers won't come in for several days, but the tourism agency New Orleans & Company predicted larger crowds this year than in 2023 based on informal hotel occupancy data gathered in advance of the event.

Its 2024 projections were based on expected occupancy at the 26,000 hotel rooms in downtown New Orleans and the French Quarter. It was 90% on Friday, 91% Saturday and 80% Sunday.

"All higher than 2023, and numbers not seen since pre-COVID in 2019," said Kelly Schulz, New Orleans & Company's senior vice president of communications and public relations.

Changes were made this year to improve the "clean zone," where operators of major events restrict certain activities, such as selling from pushcarts, to protect sponsors' and organizers' opportunities. But some local vendors thought the rules were too limiting, the city listened and the clean zone was made smaller. This year, a number of local businesses did well, something that doesn't always happen during hot, midsummer days. One bar owner said what he usually makes in a seven-day week was tripled in a few days with so many visiting New Orleans during Essence Fest weekend.

The economic impact this year will be determined after a thorough review. In 2023, the estimated economic impact was about $316 million. For comparison, the estimated economic impact of the Allstate Sugar Bowl is about $250 million and the estimated economic impact of the 2025 NFL Super Bowl is about $500 million.

That's real impact on lots of businesses, large and small.

The first Essence Festival was supposed to be a one-time event to celebrate the 25th anniversary of Essence magazine, a legendary publication that focuses on African American women. It attracted more than 140,000 attendees. The festival was such a hit, that the City of New Orleans and Essence had to do it again. And again. And again.

Other than a post-Hurricane Katrina interruption in 2006, Essence has made New Orleans its home. As Cantrell said in a weekend statement, "the Essence love letter to the city expressing the spirit of unity and empowerment can be felt all around New Orleans."

Indeed, for three decades the Essence Fest has forged a unique partnership with the city and region that attracts thousands to free daytime events and nighttime concerts. We are pleased to see its spirit endures and look forward to decades of more prosperity and success.