The return of the Carillon Tree of Light serves as the kickoff to a monthlong celebration at Dayton’s Carillon Historical Park.
On Christmas Eve 1941, just 17 days after the bombing of Pearl Harbor, crowds gathered around Dayton’s 151-foot-tall carillon for an impromptu Christmas concert. Several hymns rang from the tower’s 23 working bells that evening, beginning with “O Come All Ye Faithful,” a message of hope for a nation entering World War II.
Last year, as a nod to that historic Christmas long ago, Carillon Historical Park dressed its iconic bell tower in 20,000 glimmering bulbs, and the Carillon Tree of Light became a beacon for both city residents and travelers driving by on Interstate 75. Around 300 people were expected at the inaugural lighting, but more than 4,000 showed up, illustrating that the Deeds Carillon still brings Dayton together all these years later.
“With the history of the first concert being played on Christmas Eve, we wanted to do something that would really be fun for the community,” says Carillon Historical Park president and CEO Brady Kress. “It harkens back to that historic night and is now part of the tradition.”
This year’s lighting ceremony is set for Nov. 30 and will serve as the kickoff for the park’s first A Carillon Christmas. The monthlong celebration will feature train rides, a carousel and extended hours for all of the park buildings, including a shop featuring more than 100 Dayton-made toys.
The Carillon Tree of Light is the centerpiece. Created from 100 strands of light that rise to a point 50 feet above the top of the tower, the design allows both park visitors and passersby to enjoy the tree without obscuring the bell tower from view. In fact, the soft white lights illuminate the Indiana limestone used to build the structure.
The Deeds Carillon is controlled mechanically but can be operated manually, and its 57 bells will play 24 songs throughout the Christmas season, including “O Come All Ye Faithful.” The tree adds another dimension to the story of the Dayton landmark and offers guests a new way to enjoy the bell tower that has connected the community for decades.
“We knew it would be impressive — I knew it would be pretty — but the response from the region far exceeded anything we imagined,” says Kress. “People just love this tree.”
For more information, visit daytonhistory.org.