It’s about time again for one of music’s most highly anticipated events of the year, the Essence Music Festival. The three-day multi-stage event takes place June 29- July 2 in New Orleans.

And while the lineup – everyone from Diana Ross to Mary J. Blige to Xscape to Chance the Rapper – will have you ready to dance the night away, the event bills itself as the official party with a purpose. This year, Essence plans to continue the legacy with four days of music, empowerment, community and entertainment.

While the spotlight shines the brightest on the big name stars like Ross, John Legend and Blige, many special aspects of the overall event make it unique in offering so many choices as to how to experience the festival.

Under the roof of the Dome there are five stages. There’s the arena stage plus four small, more intimate, upper-level venues dubbed “superlounges,” located along the Dome’s interior perimeter. These areas are set up like nightclubs with a bar and food vendors at either end of the lounges. The audience-friendly, low-riding stages are in the middle with lots of room in front for dancing.

Essence’s free daytime activities, which take place throughout the weekend at the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center, offer empowerment seminars, interviews with artists, films, food, art, live music and more. There will be a Gospel Tribute all day on Sunday.

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