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Festivities officially begin as Essence brings its purposeful party to New Orleans


NEW ORLEANS — The 21st annual Essence Festival started Thursday, but organizers and city leaders officially welcomed attendees with a Friday press conference at the Morial Convention Center.

Essence Communications Inc. President Michelle Ebanks says the festival has always been community focused and that mindset continues this year, noting the first ever day of service held Thursday in recognition of Hurricane Katrina's 10th anniversary.

As part of their "party with a purpose," Essence volunteers helped schools in the Lower Ninth Ward and eastern New Orleans prepare for the upcoming school year.

NOLA.com/The Times-Picayune reports (http://bit.ly/1JDiBuQ ) festival sponsor Coca-Cola donated $50,000 to the city's Parks and Recreation Department for Coke's Troops for Fitness program and Ford plans to donate to a local breast cancer awareness organization for every test-drive taken by festival attendees.

Information from: The Times-Picayune, http://www.nola.com

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