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Lizard Butte Sunrise service turns 75

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Posted: Saturday, April 7, 2012 12:00 am

LIZARD BUTTE — As the sun rises this Easter Sunday, crowds of the faithful will begin their day atop Lizard Butte just outside Marsing for a special service that is now in its 75th year.

The Lizard Butte Sunrise Service began April 17, 1938, with 1,000 people in attendance and remains a popular tradition for local residents. Marsing residents Ray and Marion Stafford began organizing the first service in 1937 after attending a similar one out of state. They brought together a small group of people from the surrounding communities and formed the Lizard Butte Sunrise Association that oversees and plans the event each year. The association eventually purchased the 40-acre butte in 1942.

A wooden cross was built for the first service, but vandals burned the cross two years later. The association replaced the wooden cross with a concrete one that still stands on the butte today.

This year’s service will be led by Dr. James Brandon, president of the Idaho Baptist College and pastor of Anchor Baptist Church in Kuna. Thad Roduner, music director for Anchor Baptist Church, along with his wife Jaime will be providing special music for the service.

Pastor Bill O’Connor of the Marsing Church of the Nazarene is a long-time attendee and service organizer. He said the service has been so popular in part because there are so few like it in the area, especially this large. The service draws crowds of 800 to 1,700 people each year, depending on the weather.

“We have people who come from Ontario and Boise and people who have visiting relatives from out of state who come for the service,” he said.

The service has only been rained out twice in 75 years, and O’Connor recalled one rainy morning service where the butte almost became too slippery to walk up, but the crowd still numbered in the hundreds. With beautiful weather in the forecast for this Easter, he anticipates a very large crowd to attend.

The service itself stays mostly the same year after year with the exception of the speaker who is nominated and chosen by the association. The service usually lasts between 30 and 45 minutes, and O’Connor said they encourage speakers to keep the service shorter on cold mornings. It begins with a flag ceremony and a bugle call led by members of the Boy Scouts, followed by singing of hymns and scripture music, the speaker and a benediction.

This year’s service will begin at 7 a.m.

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