LAWRENCE — The local bachata band Brandon Falls already had the crowd wriggling their shoulders and tapping their feet.
When the Carnaval dancers paraded on the lawn below the Campagnone Common stage in a dream-world swirl of bright feathers, horns and mirrors, the audience was swept up in the joy.
Families danced, couples danced, and abuelas and abuelos danced in the grass Monday at the finale of the Bread and Roses Heritage Festival.
“That’s the good combination that we do,” said Stelvyn Mirabal, an Asociacion Carnavalesca de Massachusetts dancer and troupe leader. “The costumes and the masks plus the music makes the people go wild.”
The annual Labor Day festival that celebrates Lawrence’s textile strike of 1912 and the Immigrant City’s vibrant culture drew thousands of visitors on a sunny day.
Bread and Roses organizer Genithia Hogges was enthused with how the day went.
Last year, in the throes of the pandemic and before vaccinations were available, the event was held online in a virtual presentation.
This year, after debate, organizers decided to hold the festival in person. They encouraged visitors to wear masks, and they separated the booths and attractions.
“I really feel this festival celebrated everything about Lawrence,” Hogges said. “Celebrated the city. Celebrated who we are. I’m really grateful for that. For the history, the culture.”
History and culture have been hallmarks of the festival since it began in 1985.
Performers in the early years included folk mainstays Tom Rush, Arlo Guthrie, Pete Seeger, The Clancy Brothers and Odetta.
Also from the start, the festival presented a smorgasbord of musical and dance traditions.
In 1986, the lineup, in addition to Rush and fellow folk musicians Martha Leader and Charlie King, included Lionel Ouellette and the Franco-Canadians Hiep Lm, Alma Chilena, Rafael “Lula” Bobadilla and traditional folk dance by an Ecuadorian group.
On Monday, more than two dozen acts and speakers performed and presented under the theme “Overcoming in Union: Collective Action and Radical Joy.”
On the main stage, singer Devon Diep of Dorchester sang several of her songs, including one about a transformative moment in her life.
Diep, who is based in New York City and has sang the national anthem at a Brooklyn Nets professional basketball game and performed in a Martin Scorsese movie, said she felt emotional being on stage in the Immigrant City, herself being an immigrant.
She was joined by Rocio Lopez, Sara Amore, Caitlin Dwyer and Savanity Davis. The women in the band SHe reunited during the pandemic. A decade ago, they wrote 20 songs and Monday was their first performance since getting back together.
Earlier on Monday, guitarists David Brush and Mike Murphy and drummer Chris Swanson of the band No Rats sang on behalf of organized labor and working people.
Their songs included the original, “We are the Union,” as well as covers by Billy Bragg and Woody Guthrie, and the union anthem “Bread and Roses” from the 1911 James Oppenheim poem.
Brush said it was an honor to perform on the common grounds where strikers gathered and rallied in 1912.
Forums in the Lawrence History Live! tent included talks on how employees in the gig economy are denied benefits, and University of Massachusetts Lowell history professor Robert Forrant spoke on union-organizing tactics during the strike in 1912.
Forrant told of how the Industrial Workers of the World did the groundwork in Lawrence, organizing unskilled manufacturing labor from some 45 nationalities.
Meanwhile, he explained how American Federation of Labor representative John Golden maligned the IWW organizational efforts and boasted about the AFL’s work even though they had only signed up some 250 workers in Lawrence.
During a Q&A session, Forrant said the AFL’s eschewing of unskilled manufacturing labor, later organized by the Congress of Industrial Workers, in the mid-1930s was akin to unions to today failing to organize Amazon employees and fast-food workers.