The Bread & Roses Labor Day Heritage Festival

What do Judy Collins, Pete Seeger, Tom Rush and Arlo Guthrie have in common? Apart from being iconic American musicians, they have all performed at Lawrence’s annual Bread and Roses Labor Day Heritage Festival.

Few remember the first Bread and Roses Festival in 1985, given that only 200 or so people attended. Begun by a group of young activists, the Bread and Roses Festival was born from optimism amid the challenges faced by Lawrence in the 1980s, including a declining local manufacturing economy, suburban flight, and tension between new immigrants and the descendants of those who had come to this country earlier.

Pictured: Taini Asili y la Banda Rebelde combine Afro-Latin, reggae and rock.

Pictured: Taini Asili y la Banda Rebelde combine Afro-Latin, reggae and rock.

A growing interest in Lawrence’s history, centered around the great Lawrence textile strike of 1912, romantically renamed the Bread and Roses Strike, provided a wedge that some thought could turn things around. With models of historically-based revitalization in Lowell and Newburyport, the festival’s founders wondered if Lawrence could use its history the same way.

The second Bread and Roses Festival in 1986 coincided with the opening of Lawrence Heritage State Park’s visitors center, and the Labor Day event, with an infusion of private and public funding, began its growth into a huge, all-day party. Headliners in those years included Odetta, The Clancy Brothers and BeauSoleil.

The recession of the early 1990s put an end to the festival’s glory days, as private and public funding evaporated. But the event has carried on and is still held every Labor Day on the Campagnone Common in Lawrence. It is a free and family-friendly, featuring continuous entertainment on three stages, including music, dance, drama and poetry. This year, Bread & Puppet theater will perform, as well as musical acts in diverse styles including hip-hop, punk, bluegrass, klezmer and jazz.

Monday, September 5th
(978) 309-9740


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