Long before daylight Easter morning, Pastor Lyle Jeffers of the Fort Rock Community church prepared for a crowd of worshippers - some from as far away as Canada - who would attend the annual sunrise service at Fort Rock State Park.
The massive horseshoe-shaped rock formation, about 70 miles southeast of Bend, has been the site for Easter worship since the 1930s, according to Jeffers.
”They stopped having the service for four years during World War II, though,” Jeffers said.
”They couldn't have the fire because the light might be spotted and people worried they'd bomb us,” Jeffers said.
This year, the morning was chilly with gusting winds, but the bonfire had been stacked the night before and, by about 5:45 a.m., rose well above the crowd of about 150 people.
Young and old huddled close - some in dresses and some in camouflage - to join in the Easter celebration.
Jeremy Workintin, of Christmas Valley, played his guitar and led the congregation in song before Pastor Jack Ebner of the Cascade Bible Church of La Pine delivered the Easter message.
Ebner read scripture from his Bible, made a few jokes about the weather, and spoke of the special significance Easter has for so many.
”You'd be crazy to get up at 3:45 in the morning any other day, but we do today,” Ebner said. After the service many people from the congregation headed into town for a pancake breakfast at the Fort Rock Grange Hall.
According to Jana Kittredge, grange secretary, the organization purchased three abandoned schoolhouses for $125 in 1940, relocated the buildings, and joined them together to create the hall.
Andrew Bettencourt, resident of Fort Rock for 36 years, has cooked hash browns at the grange breakfast for the last 26 years.
”The problem with this job is that you never get a promotion,” Bettencourt joked.
The Easter service and grange breakfast has been a Bettencourt family tradition since they moved to Fort Rock in 1969.
”The only year they missed was the year I was born - on Easter day,” said the Bettencourts' 31-year-old daughter, Laura House.”
”While I was in labor my husband kept saying 'we could be at the Grange,'” said Bettencourt's wife, Sharon.
By about 7:30 a.m., the crowd at the hall was dwindling but Laura House was already looking forward to next year.
”We don't ever make plans for Easter because the plans are made for us,” House said.