The title of Pastor Gary Batey’s sermon Sunday is “When Easter Dawns.”

Batey, pastor of Roser Memorial Church on Anna Maria Island, will be delivering his message at daybreak Sunday during the 46th Annual Easter Sunrise Service at Manatee County Public Beach.

“The theme of my sermon will be that just as the light dawns gradually at first on the beach, at first some don’t hear the story of Christ, some don’t get it and some don’t believe it,” Batey said. “But, like light, the message gradually gets clearer and then the word spreads.”

A thousand people are expected at the beach on the western tip of Manatee Avenue West to watch the sun come up on Easter Sunday.

The 45-minute free beach service, which is set to begin at 6:30 a.m. and is sponsored by the Kiwanis of Anna Maria Island, is one of several community Easter events scheduled to celebrate the most holy day on the Christian calender.

Christ’s resurrection on Easter gives Christians the hope and joy that they can also have everlasting life, Batey said.

The Manatee County Easter Sunrise Service is also at 6:30 a.m. Sunday and will be held at Rossi Waterfront Park in downtown Bradenton.

This free service is co-sponsored by the Manatee County Ministries Association, the Ministerial Fellowship of the Gulf Coast, the North River Ministerial Association and the DeSoto Historical Society.

The service will be led by Pastor Wendell C. Wilson of Loving Hands Ministries.

Easter Fest, a family-oriented Easter event featuring Christian rock bands, a petting zoo and kid’s games, is scheduled noon to 7 p.m. at Payne Park in downtown Sarasota. Tickets for Easter Fest are $5 for adults with children age 12 and younger admitted free.

Proceeds from the event, which is featured on, benefit Agape Flights Serving Haiti.

Like Batey, Gary Scott will be enjoying sunrise on Easter, but he won’t be delivering a sermon. Scott is president of Hernando de Soto Historical Society, which sponsors the sunrise service at Rossi Waterfront Park. Scott hasn’t missed a sunrise service for 10 years.

“The sun coming up over the river is amazing,” Scott said. “Seeing that happen as you are listening to a sermon is very special.”

Hernando de Soto Historical Society will have a crew of nearly 20 in uniform at Rossi Park, Scott said.

As in past years, The Salvation Army band will perform as the sun rises.

Over on the beach, Susan Kruse will be performing special and offertory music and musician Bob LoPiccolo will perform a prelude and postlude, Batey said.

The beach service includes prayers, scriptures and hymns.

“It’s always wonderful and this year we are expecting real good weather,” Batey said.

“You start in complete darkness and the sun just emerges gradually,” Batey said. “Suddenly, you can see there are people out there. Then, as the sun really comes up you can see faces. It’s a great experience in a wonderful, natural, environment.”

Batey said that there is one other component to his Easter sermon and the analogy with the light.

There are still people for whom that light hasn’t dawned, he said.

“But what a day it is when you see a person get the message of hope and joy,” he said.

Richard Dymond, Herald reporter, can be reached at 748-0411, Ext. 6686.