Essence Fest 2016: Your Guide to Free Events

Essence Music Festival takes over New Orleans this Fourth of July weekend. The festival spans June 30 through July 3 bringing some big names to the city. If you're looking to enjoy festival events without splurging or killing your budget, you're in luck. We've mapped out a list of free activities at the festival that puts you in the action without big spending.

Volunteer For an Essence Day of Service

If you’re feeling charitable, join in the Essence Day of Service. This event kicks off the festival on June 30 from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Event organizers encourage participants to team up for a day of service learning.

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Visit These New Essence Expos

This year, the festival debuts two new free expo experiences:

The Beauty and Style Expo jam packs three days of hair and makeup tutorials, demonstrations by popular beauty bloggers, beauty tips and fashion shows. The schedule also boasts guest appearances by celebrity stylists like Kim Kimble, whose clients include Beyoncé and Mary J. Blige.

The Money and Power Expo provides workshops and discussions about entrepreneurship, finance, branding and marketing. The schedule features talks with several power players offering tips about various topics from budgeting to work-life balance.

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Fan Out at Essence Centerstage & Fan Zone

Fan out at Essence Centerstage & Fan Zone, which features live celebrity interviews and performances from emerging R&B and international artists. The schedule lists interviews with stars such as Faith Evans, Ne-Yo, Tyrese, Mario, T. D. Jakes, Kelly Price and more.

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Move & Groove with Fitness All-Stars

If you’re feeling active, each day at the Essence Centerstage opens and closes with workout sessions from fitness celebrities like Shaun T and Cheryl Lynn Jones. Lafayette native and singer Cupid is also on schedule to host “CuRobiks” line dance workouts.

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Stop By the Essence Screening Room

Stop by the Essence Screening Room for exclusive screenings of new TV shows, films and documentaries. FOX 8 also features a contest to win two tickets to one night at the Essence Festival by coming to the screening for the new FOX shows.

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Get Inspired at the Empowerment Stages

Some big names hit the Empowerment Experience Stage for discussions that are free and open to the public. Among the speakers are ballerina Misty Copeland, model Tyra Banks, the Rev. Al Sharpton, and inspirational speaker Iyanla Vanzant.

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Meet & Greet With Celebrities

Some of the sponsored booths at the festival offer even more opportunities to see celebrities up close and personal. Singer Tyrese is scheduled for a meet and greet session at the Coca-Cola booth on Saturday at 1:30 p.m. Singer Chrisette Michele meets and greets fans at the McDonald’s booth on Sunday at 3 p.m. Check out the full schedule at each sponsored booth for more information.

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Attend an Award Show Taping

Actors Amber Riley and Lance Gross will host the McDonald’s 365Black Awards, which honors several celebrities, philanthropists and entrepreneurs for their achievements. The show starts at noon at Hall J in the Ernst N. Morial Convention Center. Sign up at the below website to RSVP. Event organizers say they encourage upscale attire.

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If you're staying in New Orleans for an extended staycation this holiday weekend, here are some tips to help you plan ideas.