Sunset Ceremony - Fort Henry

Sunset Ceremony Re-visited


by Festival Nomad "Scoop" Correspondent, Judi McWilliams

After our time at Fort Henry's Upper Fort "Trade Square", we had the opportunity to attend Fort Henry's, the "newly revamped" award winning World Heritage Sunset Ceremony.  This event is event more spectacular than before, definitely a “must see” event! You will be completely amazed by the 3D video wall projection during the “drills” of the soldiers. It really "took my breath away" and "moved my heart and soul". Although we have been to the Sunset Ceremony in the past, this 3D experience was extraordinary! The Fort walls came to life with the 3D video tying in the experiences of the Battle Reenactment taking place right before our eyes. This year, the Battle continued up to the roof top of the Fort with soldiers re-enacting the final Battle, cannons shooting, gun smoke filled the air, raising up into the starlit skies. Again, it really is a must see event, even if you have been before, you will be amazed! 


by Festival Nomad, Gary McWilliams

Return To Fort Henry…
After we finished our dinner, we returned to Fort Henry. We had been invited to the world famous Sunset Ceremony. The Fort’s parking lot was completely full. People were now starting to park on the grass and on the side of the long drive that leads up to the Fort from the roadway below! Fortunately after a long search we found a spot on the regular parking lot. We left our car and followed the crowd to the main entrance. We already had our tickets, so we proceeded straight through into the Upper Fort. We then took the ramp down to the Lower Fort. This is where the Ceremony was going to take place. Fort staff were at the bottom, greeting visitors as they came by. We showed our tickets to one of the greeters and he showed us where to go. Our seating was on the balcony level that overlooked the Parade Grounds. We found the correct entrance and climbed upstairs. We were once again greeted by event staff and shown to our seats. As we sat down, I heard wonderful music coming from our left. A large orchestra was performing at the eastern end of the parade grounds! The music they were playing was captivating! People were now steaming through the Lower Fort’s archway. There was still a little time left before the start of the Sunset Ceremony, so I opened the Fort Henry information booklet that I had picked up earlier. I wanted to find out more about the Ceremonies. The Ceremonies, which all began on July 20th, 1955, are held every Wednesday during the months of July and August. There are also two more Ceremonies held on selected Saturdays. The Ceremonies feature the Fort Henry Guard Drums, Drill Squad and Artillery Detachment. The booklet told us that we were in for an amazing treat! We waited in anticipation! Finally, after almost everyone had found their seats, the announcer’s voice came over the PA system. Once opening ceremonies were over, the Drums and Pipes could be heard off in the distance. The Ceremony was about to begin!


Let The Sunset Ceremony Begin!
The beat of the drums became louder and louder. We looked towards the archway, where the sound was coming from. The Military Band, in its dress uniforms, came into view through the archway opening. As they reached the Parade Grounds, the pipes began to play. The audience applauded. The Sunset Ceremony had begun! Once the players were through the archway they spread out in formation. Once the formation was completed the band performed several pieces of music while march in different formations. The marching and the music was inspiring! Upon completion of their performance the band left the Parade Grounds through the archway. After a short interval, the Fort Guard, led by its flag bearers and mascot entered the Parade Grounds! Like the Military Band before it, once they were through the archway opening, spread into formation. This was followed by precision marching and then firing drill demonstrations. These demonstrations were similar to what Judi and I had witnessed during our afternoon tour. However, this is where the similarity ended! The marching ended in the centre of the Parade Grounds and the soldiers came to a halt and stood at attention in front of the crowd! Then the mood and the activities changed! Light were lower and spot lights turned on! There was excitement in the air! The real Ceremony was about to begin!


The Thin Red Line…
Here is how Wikipedia describes the Thin Red Line: “The Thin Red Line is a term for a thinly spread military unit holding firm against attack. The phrase later took on the metaphorical meaning of the barrier which the relatively limited armed forces of a country present to potential attackers. The first use of the expression referred to the resistance by the red-coated 93rd (Highland) Regiment of the United Kingdom in the Crimean War.” The Fort Henry Guard, dressed in its crimson uniforms, performing highly technical drill manoeuvers and then demonstrating mock battle re-enactments, epitomizes what the friends and foes must have experienced in the 1800’s. The Sunset Ceremony, the real show, started off with a bang, drums beating, rifles firing and cannon s booming! The receding sun brought magnificent colours to the western sky! As the night grew darker, the noise and colours caused by the re-enactment intensified! Throughout the show we were treated to the excitement of soldiers rushing forward, loading their rifles and firing. The long flashes of gun powder pouring out the muzzle of each rifle. The precision of these long practiced drills had the crowd on the edge of their seats! After the initial rush of soldiers, the artillery brigades came charging onto the parade grounds. The cannons were put into their stations and then the careful procedure of loading and priming the cannons took place. Once everything was ready, the order to fire was given! The boom from each cannon ricocheted off the walls of the Fort. As the evening continued, more shots and drills were performed. Then, as quickly as the manoeuvers started, they were over. The spotlights turned low for a moment and then shone on the Lower Fort archway. The sound of bagpipes filled the Parade Grounds as the Rob Roy Pipes, Drums and Dancers marched through the tunnel! The sound of the pipes and drums echoed throughout the grounds while the dancers performed to the beat of the music. Finally the Garrison’s own military band marched onto the field for the grand finish! The Fort Henry Sunset Ceremony ended by the lowing of the Union Jack, the singing of a hymn and a fabulous fireworks display.