LAWRENCE — The two Bread and Roses Festival organizers sat in Campagnone Common where in any other year a crowd would soon — on Labor Day — be gathering to recognize workers and rally for social justice. 

But this year, restricted to an online presence due to the pandemic, the festival will present its traditional lineup virtually, featuring music and dance performances, topical discussions, and history walks, according to festival President Felipe Collazo and Vice President Glennys Sanchez.

Collazo said that the format is an opportunity to expand the festival's reach worldwide.

"It is open to whoever has an internet connection," Sanchez said.

Bread and Roses, which commemorates the historic textile strike in Lawrence in 1912, is one of three end-of-summer celebrations in the Immigrant City.

Ordinarily, the ethnic, spiritual, social and activist festivals are a last hurrah for the season, signaling the start of school, arrival of fall and approach of holidays.

But 2020 is different.

Neither of the other two events, the Feast of the Three Saints or the Mahrajan, will take place in typical fashion, either.

But the Mahrajan will serve its renowned Lebanese food — including falafel, shawarma, kibbee and pastries —  at a drive-thru at Saint Anthony Maronite Church.

Parishioners organized the takeout station to help Catholic parishes devastated by the explosion in Beirut on Aug. 4. Food sale proceeds will be donated to Beirut relief.

Food may be ordered over the phone or at the drive-thru, 145 Amesbury St., from 5 to 8 p.m. on Saturday, Sept. 5, and 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Sunday, Sept. 6.

Antony Abi Awad, church secretary, said he expects organizers will play recorded Arabic music for people to listen to while they are waiting for their food.

"We will do our best to have a festive environment while respecting all the requirements related to COVID," he said.

Meanwhile, the Feast, which typically draws thousands of visitors over three days, plans only two limited in-person events.

The church will hold a 10 a.m. Mass on Sunday for members of the St. Alfio Society, said Tony Palmisano, Feast spokesman. The Mass will have social distancing and mask-wearing protocols, he said.

Also Sunday, from 3 to 6 p.m. in the parking lot of the Corpus Cristi Parish at Holy Rosary Church, Feast officials will host a display of their statues of the three saints for whom the feast is held: Alfio, Filadelfo and Cirino.

"These statues were carved by The Demetz Religious Art Studio in the town of Ortisei, in South Tyrol, Italy. around 1965," Palmisano said. "This studio continues to provide hand carved Catholic statues throughout the world."

The statues were originally commissioned by the Saint Alfio Society of Chester Springs for a chapel in Chester Springs, Pennsylvania. After the organization was dissolved, the saints were donated to the Lawrence organization and the care of Domenic Messina, who attended the Pennsylvania Feast for over 40 years, and Peter Messina, who worked in constructing the chapel in Pennsylvania.

On Sunday, visitors are invited to drive up and offer a prayer to the statues. The St. Alfio Honor Guard will preside over the ceremonies. An auxiliary police officer will direct traffic.

Also, organizers have assembled video clips from previous Feasts and posted them to the society's Instagram page,

The Feast of the Three Saints has been a Lawrence institution since 1923. 

The 2020 Bread and Roses Festival celebrates a century mark, the 100th anniversary of the 19th Amendment's ratification giving women the right to vote.

Illustrator Kate Delaney designed a festival poster, "100 Years of Women, Changing the Current," that honors women for their commitment to justice — environmental, social, economic or other.

Lawrence labor and suffrage activist Ella Findeisen, a German immigrant jailed in 1917 for picketing the Woodrow Wilson White House, is among the women on the poster.

Prominent among the performers at the festival will be Andre Veloz, who has established herself in the male-dominated world of Dominican bachata.

"Her soulful voice is tailor-made for this genre, popularly known as the Dominican Blues, according to organizers.

Other performers will include Kaovanny, Christopher Paul Stelling​, Ceschi, Oompa and Prateek.

The festival will also present a Black Lives Matter Photo Exhibit​ by Steve Osemwenkhae.

The festival's goal this year is to expand the content and extend the offerings to a broader audience.

"To experience the festival through a new lens, safely," Collazo said.

To join the festival, visit ​​ on Labor Day, Sept. 7, and follow the link to a social media platform.

Recommended for you