The Magic Kingdom Flag Retreat

patrioticmickeyOne of my favorite things about a trip to the Walt Disney World Resort in Florida is the fact that no matter how many times you visit, you will always have at least one new experience each and every time.  Our most recent trip in August did not disappoint and on our last day in the Magic Kingdom we were fortunate enough to happen upon one of the park’s lesser-known special events.  Being that it was our last day, we stayed in the park throughout the afternoon, foregoing our usually mid-day resort break in order to drink in every last drop of magic we could.  Taking our time as we headed down Main Street toward the park gates, I noticed a small crowd of people gathered around the flag pole which stands tall in the center of Town Square.  The brass-buttoned members of the Main Street Philharmonic were there as were the Dapper Dans, the Magic Kingdom’s barbershop quartet and several cast members.  Turning to my girls I said, “I think this is the Flag Retreat Ceremony!  It’s something very special that I’ve always wanted to see!”  But because we’d never been in the park at that time of day before, we’d never had the chance to experience it for ourselves.

Customarily, a flag retreat signals the end of the official duty day in the armed forces.  Every afternoon at 5:00 p.m., the aforementioned cast of characters gathers in Town Square to ceremoniously lower the Magic Kingdom’s American flag and retire it for the night.  When I realized what we’d happened upon, I lead the girls toward the flagstaff to wait for the ceremony to begin.  It was there that we struck up a conversation with one of the Dapper Dans, who confirmed that we had indeed arrived in time for the Flag Retreat.  Being barbershop fans ourselves, we chatted with “Dan” about some of our favorite show tunes and musicals and after a while he said to us, “I could use some special helpers for today’s ceremony.  Do you girls know the Pledge of Allegiance?”  With a bit of prompting from me the girls assured him that they did and he invited them to join him in the center of the square.  My eldest daughter opted to stay back with me, not being a fan of the limelight herself, but the other two went ahead with Dan and listened carefully as he explained to them what would happen next.

After a brief welcome by another of the Dans, the girls were introduced and, squinting into the sunlight, spoke the Pledge loudly and clearly into the microphones held before them.  A trumpet fanfare followed after which time the Main Street Philharmonic struck up the Star Spangled Banner to accompany the lowering of the flag which was presided over by the Main Street Security Color Guards and the Veteran of the Day.  The members of the Color Guard caught the billowing flag, removed it from the staff and carefully folded it into the traditional tri-cornered hat shape symbolic of the hats worn by the Colonial soldiers during the Revolutionary War.  Finally, the Dapper Dans then lead the audience in a chorus of God Bless America and the folded flag was presented to the honored veteran to be carried up Main Street, U.S.A.

I took a couple of videos of the event. As a relative novice of using the video camera on my phone, I took two short clips rather than one long one, and part of one of them is a bit shaky for a moment (I was probably dealing with one of my kids!). Learning how to better incorporate video into my posts is on my to-do list, but for now, this is what you get!

One question people may have is how the Veteran of the Day is chosen.  There is varying information about this topic.  It is my understanding that members of the military wanting to take part in the Flag Retreat should stop by Magic Kingdom’s Guest Services in City Hall upon arriving at the park in the morning and tell the Cast Members there that they’d like to be that day’s veteran.  I believe that the veteran is chosen on a first come, first served basis.  At the same time, I’ve also heard tale of the Veteran of the Day being chosen randomly by a Cast Member at park opening.  Oftentimes members of the military will have special Armed Forces Salute tickets, and Cast Members may take note of these as guests enter the park.  Also, striking up a conversation with a Cast Member is always a great way to be chosen for special Disney events, as we learned after talking with the Dapper Dan’s that day.  I’d had no idea that the Pledge was said at the beginning of the ceremony or that volunteers were chosen to lead it, but there you have it!

It was a privilege and a delight to participate in such a beautiful and heartfelt ceremony.  Walt Disney World is replete with patriotic attractions and events from spectacular July 4th fireworks, to the Hall of Presidents, the American Adventure, the Voices of Liberty and the Fife and Drums Corps.  The Flag Retreat Ceremony is a wonderful tradition and one that everyone should make a point to see at some time during a Walt Disney World vacation.

Have you ever seen or joined in the Flag Retreat Ceremony?  I’d love to hear your experiences here!  And keep in mind, as a Disney Travel Planner I can help create magical vacations for military families as well.  Disney offers a great Military Salute discount and discounted theme park tickets as well.  Click here for more information about these military savings offers and contact me today to start planning YOUR magic!

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