The story behind Carillon Park’s Tree of Light

Dayton’s newest holiday tradition has returned for its fourth season.

The Carillon Tree of Light will be turned on nightly through New Year’s Day and be accompanied by programmed carillon music, Kress said.

>> PHOTOS: Stunning images of the Carillon Tree of Light




You might be wondering just what is this tree of light and where did the idea come from?

Think about it this way...

You’re driving along Interstate 75 in downtown Dayton after dark. Your eyes immediately are drawn to the Deeds Carillon off in the distance. The beloved bell tower — one of Dayton’s best-known landmarks and the largest carillon in Ohio — has been transformed into the shape of a holiday tree towering 200 feet in the air and glowing with 20,000 white lights.

“We want everyone who is driving on I-75 to see this and say, ‘Wow, that’s neat. Dayton has some really great things going on,’” Brady Kress, president and CEO of Dayton History, told us in 2015 as the Tree of Light debuted.

The Tree of Light is part of the $25 million long-term plan to help make Carillon Historical Park a true destination.


The idea for the Tree of Light was inspired in part by Indianapolis’ more than 50-year-old downtown Circle of Lights, Kress said. During the Circle of Lights, the Soldiers and Sailors Monument at Monument Circle downtown is covered with nearly 5,000 colored lights, 52 garland strands and is surrounded by large decorations. It serves as a focal point and gathering place.

An important historical discovery also helped spark this idea, Kress said. While the first official Deeds Carillon concert on record occurred on Easter Sunday 1942, Dayton History learned about an impromptu Christmas Eve concert that occurred 17 days after the attack at Pearl Harbor. The Christmas Eve 1941 performance marked the first time the public heard beautiful music ringing from the Carillon bells. The Tree of Light helps honor that important concert, Kress told us.

>> The best places to go to see Christmas lights near Dayton


Once the Tree of Light was revealed as part of the master plan back in the summer, Connie and John Taylor of Kettering — members and longtime supporters — stepped in with a generous contribution to help the nonprofit Dayton History bring the project to fruition in time for this holiday season.

“I’m very thrilled to be part of it,” Connie Taylor told us just before the first illumination. “I’m thrilled to be able to do it for the community; it’s going to be spectacular.”

The Tree of Light was crafted by Active Electric of Dayton and Wilcon Corporation of Kettering.

“One of the important considerations is that the Deeds Carillon is on the National Register. It’s our icon and namesake and one of the most recognized symbols in Dayton, Ohio,” Kress said. “We didn’t want to do anything to permanently alter it. Nothing is anchored into the Carillon. Everything that people will see that’s above ground is removed after the new year, so there were no permanent changes to the Carillon,” he said.

Long term, the goal is to make the Tree of Light a gathering place and a focal point for holiday events at Carillon, as well as to support the overall goals of Dayton History and Carillon.

“I hope the community gains more of an awareness of Carillon Park in the summertime and wintertime, too, and gain an awareness of what can be done in the community for the good of everybody,” Connie Taylor said.

On Dec. 14, 2015, the Tree of Light was severely damaged in a windstorm, cutting the first season in 2015 short. The Tree of Light returned for the 2016 and 2017 seasons and will run from Nov. 28-Dec. 30, 2018.

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