The recession and a lack of adequate donor support have led to this year's cancellation of the popular Hollywood Bowl Easter Sunrise Service, organizers said Thursday.
"It's terribly heartbreaking," said Trina Herrmann-Boychenko, president of the group that organizes the annual service. "It's the economy, and our donors are unable to . . . contribute as before."
The Hollywood Bowl Easter Sunrise Service, which presents the nondenominational Easter celebration, is a nonprofit group that relies on financial assistance from corporations and the public.
The cost of putting on the event is "substantial . . . similar to putting on a rock concert" or some other large event, Herrmann-Boychenko said. She would not specify a dollar amount.
Admission and parking are typically free of charge at the event, which organizers said has attracted 12,000 to 17,000 worshipers in past years.
Attendance had dropped to about 8,000 during the last two years, Herrmann-Boychenko said.
It is not the first time the service has been canceled. It failed to go forward in 2004 and 2005 because of a $25-million renovation to replace the Hollywood Bowl's stage shell with a larger structure.
It also was canceled for five years in the mid-1990s because of renovation work at the amphitheater. The service was held in other locations, including nearby Forest Lawn Memorial-Park, Hollywood Hills.
The event also suffered an emotional blow last year when longtime volunteer and producer Norma Foster suffered a massive stroke, Herrmann-Boychenko said.
The sunrise services began in 1919 as a gathering for silent film stars near the site of the Hollywood Bowl and moved to the facility in 1921. Back then, the bowl was basically a hillside blanketed with rocks and weeds, but the area had good natural acoustics.
In recent years, worshipers showed up for the 5.30 a.m. start wearing parkas and beanies, and wrapped in blankets. They have been treated to a traditional Easter program, featuring mass choirs and sermons delivered by clergy from multiple Christian denominations.
"The whole spiritual element and being at the Hollywood Bowl at sunrise . . . it's inspiring and breathtaking," said Herrmann-Boychenko, whose family has been involved in the Bowl services for three generations.
The veteran event volunteer said she will arrive at the Bowl by 4 a.m. on Easter Sunday to redirect people who might show up. She will be accompanied by her two teenage daughters, who have been singing at the services since they were toddlers, and she anticipates an impromptu outbreak of song.
"We will be back in full force with our traditional service next year," Herrmann-Boychenko said. "It will be our 90th year. I can't wait."