In-person Easter sunrise service returns to Carillon Historical Park

Carillon Historical Park’s Easter sunrise service will return as an in-person event this year.

Last year, the outdoor service was canceled because of a ban on public gatherings of more than 100 people due to the coronavirus pandemic. It was the first year the Dayton tradition had not been held since it began in 1942.

Credit: Jim Witmer

Credit: Jim Witmer

This year, at 6:30 a.m. on Sunday, April 4, attendees will be able to gather again on the lawn surrounding the Deeds Carillon as ringing bells usher in the sunrise.

“It’s another sign we’re coming out of the pandemic and returning to more normal times,” said Alex Heckman, vice president of museum operations for Dayton History, the nonprofit organization that owns and operates the park.

“In the same way the Easter message is one of joy and rebirth, this year having the event in person and live helps the community on this healing process after a year of isolation and trauma for many people,” Heckman said.

The Deeds Carillon sits on three acres of land, and there is a large open field between it and the parking lot, creating ample space for attendees to socially distance, Heckman said.

Credit: Jim Witmer

Credit: Jim Witmer

Visitors to the free service should bring blankets or chairs, and they will be encouraged to wear masks and to seat themselves away from people who are not part of their household.

The annual event is held jointly by Dayton History and Greater Dayton Christian Connections. This year, Rev. Shelby Walker of BTC Ministries will give the Easter message. Dr. Larry Weinstein, a carillonneur for the park, will perform live music.

This will be the 80th Easter sunrise service at Deeds Carillon. The first service was held on April 5, 1942, less than four months after the nation entered World War II.

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. In recent years the crowd has ranged in size from about 600 to about 1,500 people.

The tradition “draws believers in the Easter message from across the spectrum to one place,” Heckman said. “There is something special about standing at the Deeds Carillon at dawn with hundreds of other members of the community.”

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