By Yadira Betances
---- — With the beat of the taiko drum, Odaiko New England will open the 29th annual Labor Day Bread and Roses Festival tomorrow.
Throughout the day, an array of entertainment from many cultures will entertain festival-goers in a representation of this city’s diversity.
Highlights include Irish step dancers, Mexican mariachi, activist music, jazz, swing, salsa dance lessons, a Puerto Rican dance troupe, crafts, clowns, jugglers, puppet shows, storytellers and, of course, great food.
Festival Producing Director Carmela Lanza-Weil said her goal is variety for the festival, which recognizes the textile strike of 1912 commonly known as the “Bread and Roses Strike,” when 30,000 immigrant workers protested a wage cut and working conditions, paving the way for changes in labor laws.
“We’re starting off with a bang,” Lanza-Weil said, quite literally, of the festival. “The Japanese drummers are a loud call to the community about the festival.”
Meanwhile, organizers have high hopes for headliner Marcia Ball, an internationally known musician.
“That was great news and a good feeling that we booked a headliner who has a following and name that will attract many people,” said Jim Beauchesne, another organizer.
Ball, a five-time Grammy nominee, has built a wide following with vocal and piano performances of New Orleans rhythm and blues.
“We’re hopeful that she will bring even more people to the festival,” Lanza-Weil said.
Beauchesne said that while the format is similar from year to year, the acts and events always are changing.
“There is not much repeating going on. We’re always adding new things,” he said.
Another new component is a Kids and Family Stage, featuring interactive dance instruction with Mariachi singer Veronica Robles, Irish dancing with O’Shea & Chaplin, Stories in the Streets, and salsa dance instruction. Pony rides, jugglers, hula hoops and face painting are some of the other highlights for the children.
The Historical Tent has been expanded because it has grown to be so popular. Here people can read workers’ poetry, as well as learning about the details of the strike, the trial of union leaders Ettor and Giovannitti, labor artist Ralph Fasanella, and the present-day missions of many labor and social justice organizations, among other exhibits.
“Those who have attended in the past can see that while the festival is different, it’s still great,” Lanza-Weil said.
Beauchesne said the festival is popular because it’s about a very compelling time for Lawrence.
“It’s a piece of history that a lot of people can relate to, such as the struggles of the immigrants and workers,” he said.
If you go: What: The Bread and Roses Festival features three stages in the heart of Lawrence. When: Labor Day, Monday, Sept. 2, noon to 6 p.m. Where: In and around Campagnone Common, 200 Common St. How: Free. For a complete listing of entertainment and times visit breadandrosesheritage.org/festival-guide. HIGHLIGHTS Five-time Grammy nominee, Marcia Balll (rhythm and blues)' Bread and Puppet Theater, Odaiko New England (Japanese taiko drummers), Emma's Revolution (activist folk), Ten Tumbao (Afro-Latin-Caribbean music), The Goodtime String Band (bluegrass), Berklee College of Music's International String Trio and, Charlie King and Karen Brandow (folk), There will also be children's activities and trolley and walking tours highlighting the city's historical sites.