Charlie Wilson sings during the Essence Music Festival at the Louisiana Superdome in New Orleans on July 1, 2011

*The Associated Press is reporting that more than 422,000 attended the 2011 Essence Music Festival held over the Fourth of July weekend in New Orleans.

The three-day gathering featured nightly concerts inside the Louisiana Superdome and free daily empowerment and community-based events at the city’s convention center where the festival, presented by The Coca-Cola Cola, celebrated its 17th anniversary.

Citywide hotel occupancy was in the mid-90 percent range or higher throughout the weekend, according to the AP

Essence Communications President Michelle Ebanks said Tuesday that the large numbers underscore the festival’s significance as a one-of-a-kind platform for entertainment, information and inspiration.

The festival featured performances by Mary J. Blige, Kanye West, Usher, Jennifer Hudson, Fantasia, Jill Scott, El Debarge, Chaka Khan, Charlie Wilson and others.