The Royal Canadian Air Force’s Snowbirds will perform during this weekend’s Sunset Ceremony

Sunset Ceremony rekindled

Military traditions abound at Royal Roads University

A very special sunset is on the horizon at Royal Roads University.

Thousands of sunsets have passed in the 20 years since the former military college became a university.

But a traditional Sunset Ceremony will make this Saturday (April 25) especially significant as the 75th anniversary celebrations kick off with the school honouring its military past.

“We hold a strong and significant view of ourselves and there are (military) connections; it is a part of our base,” said president and vice-chancellor Allan Cahoon. “It is not just physical, it is an educational connection. I am quite comfortable connecting to our past … For us it is part of who we are.”

The origins of the ceremony are traced back to 16th-century soldiers.

They lowered their flags at sunset as they settled into camps and cities for the evening. Another military routine saw the beating of drums at dusk, a signal to return to the barracks – the drums were sometimes accompanied by tunes, hymns and the national anthem played by a military band. It is a ceremony the Royal Roads Military College performed annually prior to the graduation parade from 1972 to 1995.

“When you have a celebration, you give acknowledgement to things because it is important,” Cahoon said. “We have accomplishments we are proud of and we want to talk about those.”

The public is welcome to attend the ceremony, which includes the Naden Band, the United States Air Force Academy Drum and Bugle Corps, the Canadian Forces Snowbirds, the Royal Military College of Canada Pipes and Drums and more.

Dave Bindernagel, former commandant of the military college and chair of the ceremony organizing committee, looks forward to remembering the past with an eye on the future.

“It has been 20 years since Royal Roads has had a military ceremony on the parade square and this Sunset Ceremony will help remind folks of that rich military history that is an inherent part of Royal Roads,” he said. “That continuation of excellence in leadership and education, as well as the ability to change lives positively, are an obvious bedrock of RRU today.”

The event is organized in partnership with the Vancouver Island Ex-Cadets Club. Bindernagel hopes the public takes the time to enjoy what he expects to be a rich, visual celebration of the 55-year military and educational history of Royal Roads.

“This ceremony allows us, in a small way, to demonstrate the importance of service to Canada and community which Royal Roads stood for in its military past, and which is certainly represented by RRU today.”

The ceremony happens from 7 to 8:30 p.m. Saturday. For details on visit

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