Many people who have visited Disney World in Orlando, Florida, return with stories of a patriotic event that they did not even realize occurs daily in the Magic Kingdom. Disney World’s way of publicizing the event is low key, but the ceremony itself certainly shows that those who run the theme park have their hearts in the right place. The tradition normally takes place each day at 5:00 pm in Magic Kingdom. That is the time that they lower the American flag in the Town Square on Main Street, near the Magic Kingdom’s Train Station.
During the ceremony, they honor a Veteran of the Day. With the band playing, the barbershop quartet singing and crowds surrounding the plaza at the main entrance cheering, the veteran for the day represents all of the past and present servicemen and women as our flag is lowered for the day. It is a moving tribute for the spectators, but an even greater thrill for the veteran who is selected. Recently former Private 1st Class of the U.S. Army, Westy Schiumo of Clarksburg, New Jersey, was asked to be the Veteran of the Day. He was very touched and honored.
It begins with a gathering in the Town Square on Main Street U.S.A. to watch the Magic Kingdom’s American flag retire for the night. Each ceremony includes a special tribute and a thank you to veterans for their service, sacrifice and dedication to protecting our country. The trumpet fanfare sounds Retreat and then the American flag is slowly lowered while the Disney Philharmonic Band plays the “Star Spangled Banner.” Members of the color guard remove the flag from its staff and fold it while everyone is led in a chorus of “God Bless America.”
The veteran participant is selected entirely by random by the Magic Kingdom Entertainment Department. How the veteran is selected is part of the Disney magic. The entertainment department does not disclose how they make the selection. There are no forms to fill out and perhaps beyond some magic, it may come down to the keen eyes of the Disney staff to identify individuals who have served our country. One way they choose a veteran is by looking for individuals who are wearing unit pins or military hats. This takes place at the front part of Main Street, closest to the railroad station, each morning before 10:00 am. In Westy’s case, Disney knew that he was a veteran right away. He has a veteran sticker on his driver’s license, which he presented at guest relations to activate his annual pass.
When they presented Westy with the folded flag, he said, “I represent all veterans.” A Disney photographer followed his every move. After he proceeded up Main Street in a parade, the Disney staff presented him with a pin and certificate. It was the type of magical moment that can only happen at Disney World and in Westy’s words, “it was humbling to say the least.”
Disney security members, Main Street operations personnel, and the Dapper Dan’s Barber Shop Quartette conduct the ceremony with each day’s special guest. Whenever you are in Disney World, enjoy your day and don’t forget to be in Main Street’s Town Square just before 5:00 pm for the thrilling lowering of the flag ceremony.