LAKE WALES, Fla. - The Easter sunrise service at Bok Tower Gardens is a 94-year-old tradition that attracts thousands every year. In years past, it was the hottest ticket in town.
"They would sleep in their cars to make sure they could get into the gardens for the sunrise service. You know, they would sleep outside the gate," said director of marketing Erica Smith.
The first Easter sunrise service at Bok Tower actually happened before the gardens were even finished.
Geert D'hollander, the current carillon director, has played eight of them.
"Everything starts when it’s dark," he said. “And you see that sunrise, it’s just hard to describe. You just have to be here."
But that's not possible this year. The Bok Tower Gardens have been closed since mid-March as part of the effort to slow the spread of coronavirus.
"Right now I’m just playing for squirrels, I guess," laughed D'hollander.
So this Easter, they are taking the service to the people. It's going digital, broadcasting to the world through Facebook Live.
"The virtual service allows everyone to enjoy this wonderful gift and really enjoy the serenity of Bok Tower Gardens," Smith offered.
"I hope we can give the people the same feeling. It will be hard because they are not physically here, but I hope they can feel what we feel here," added D'hollander.
Organizers decided not to pursue the religious exemption to Florida's stay-at-home order.
"We really didn’t go after that exemption because we knew we wouldn’t be able to keep everyone at a safe distance," Smith said.
The goal is to keep everyone safe, while still bringing a much-needed Easter message to the masses.