Event name change

Massing of Colors now Patriotic Day

By Jessica Corey-Butler on July 7, 2016

Though the sponsoring agencies have changed, the Massing of the Colors in the South Sound has been an institution since Armistice Day, 1922. The Society of the Massing of the Colors first held the event then; the Military Order of the World Wars took on the responsibility for the event in 1927 when the Society of the Massing of the Colors faded away. Now, in Washington State, the name is changing, though the event and its intent will remain the same.

Colonel (retired) Carroll Dixon, Registrar of the Washington State Patriotic Day (formerly The Massing of the Colors) is a local authority on the event.  He explained that the event as we know it in Washington has evolved over the last 25 years.  It began as a gathering in churches, where "patriotic organizations would bring flags to honor the patriots of yesterday, today and tomorrow."  Eventually the event moved to Ft Lewis, where it was held out of doors in February; more recently it has been moved indoors to Stadium High School in Tacoma, where Dixon says, "it's been successful."

Dixon says surveys held to determine how to improve on the successes indicated that Saturday afternoon was preferred to Sunday afternoon, and "a lot of people didn't understand what ‘The Massing of the Colors' meant." And so it was decided to change the name to Washington State Patriotic Day, which will take place on February 25, 2017. "We've rebranded the ceremony but it's essentially the Massing of the Colors under a new coat of paint."

And what that ceremony is, essentially, is a celebration of patriotism that includes a band playing patriotic favorites, a speaker of note (past speakers have included Medal of Honor recipients and elected officials) and of course, the Colors themselves, as seen in a processional where service organizations like The Puget Sound Chapter of the Military Order of World Wars, the Captain Meriwether Lewis Chapter of the Association of the United States Army, the McChord Chapter of the Air Force Association, the Tacoma Council of the Navy League, and the Military Officers Association of America, among many others which include, "Girl Scouts and Brownies on up to Sons and Daughters of the Revolution in the costumes of the day," Dixon explains.

And it's no accident that "Washington" is a key name in the rebranding of the event: the timing of the celebration coincides with the observance of our first president's birthday (for whom our fine state was named).  According to Dixon, "When we recognize those who have served, we recognize George Washington as the first patriot."