The 1973 Festival saw the inauguration of a new theme presentation entitled "Working Americans". The presentation of working peoples' skills, crafts, and lore began in 1971 and continued in 1972 when the Union Workers programs featured ten member unions of the AFL-CIO. Working Americans differed from these earlier efforts in numerous ways, most substantially in the consideration of how working people serve human needs and how their skills and expressions have shaped a major national festival to celebrate the nation's 200th birthday.
Working Americans in 1973 featured "Workers Who Build Our Shelter", to be followed in future years by exploration of those workers who provide our food and other needs. Nine unions of the building and construction trades demonstrated their skills, complemented by a full musical program that presented various traditions enjoyed by urban and rural working people, from labor songs to urban blues and a Cajun band. On July 7 and 8, a gospel stage was dedicated to presentations of diverse traditions of African American sacred music. Narrative workshops on the Working Americans stage focused attention on the oral traditions of each of the building trades, as well as on the customs and practices that spanned several trades.
The Working Americans Program Coordinator was Shirley Askew, assisted by Denis Lachman. Major sponsors included the AFL-CIO, its Building and Construction Trades Department, and the U.S. Department of Labor.