The annual Easter Sunrise Service at Carillon Historical Park won’t be held this year, but organizers have a plan to keep the tradition alive.
For nearly eight decades Daytonians have gathered on the lawn surrounding the Deeds Carillon as ringing bells ushered in the sunrise on Easter morning.
Ohio’s ban on public gatherings of more than 100 due to the coronavirus pandemic and concerns about proper social distancing led to the temporary cancellation — the first since the tradition began in 1942.
“It was a painful decision to make because people have gathered there in person, every year for 78-years,” said Alex Heckman, vice president of museum operations for Dayton History.
“It’s an unfortunate turn of events, but as anyone that’s been following the news knows, even the pope had to celebrate Mass behind closed doors.”
This year the Easter program, held jointly by Dayton History and Greater Dayton Christian Connections, will be released on video at 6:30 a.m. Easter morning on Carillon Historical Park’s Facebook page, Dayton History’s website and YouTube channel and it can be heard on WHIO Radio AM 1290.
The Rev. Vanessa Ward, co-pastor of Dayton’s Omega Baptist Church, has recorded an uplifting Easter message for the video, Heckman said.
She will be followed by 25 minutes of pre-recorded Easter hymns performed by Dr. Larry Weinstein, the carillonneaur since 1988. The music will be accompanied by historical photos of the Deeds Carillon.
The first Easter Sunrise Service at Deeds Carillon was on April 5, 1942, less than four months after the nation entered into WWII.
The annual non-denominational and ecumenical program has drawn thousands on Easter mornings. More than 8,000 attended in 1953 and the crowd grew to 10,000 in 1967. On the 75th anniversary of the Easter Sunrise Service in 2016, more than 1,500 attended.
Heckman said the organizers like to think the spirit of the service is continuing this year and intend to hold the gathering outdoors again in 2021.
“We know this won’t replace a live, in-person service, but we really are hoping that the approach this year will allow people to enjoy that tradition and to have a connection to the Easter season and the joy of Easter even in such a difficult time.”