The Great American Tattoo
Saturday July 24th  5:00pm

A military tattoo is a performance of music or display of armed forces in general. The term comes from the early 17th-century Dutch phrase doe den tap toe ("turn off the tap"), a signal sounded by drummers or trumpeters to instruct innkeepers near military garrisons to stop serving beer and for soldiers to return to their barracks, and is unrelated to the Tahitian origins of an ink tattoo.

The tattoo was originally a form of military music, but the practice has evolved into more elaborate shows involving theatrics and musical performances. It is also used to designate military exhibitions such as the Royal International Air Tattoo.

Taptoo was the earlier used alteration of the term, and was used in George Washington's papers in which he said:  "In the future, the Reveille will beat at day-break; the troop at 8 in the morning; the retreat at sunset and taptoo at nine o'clock in the evening."

Over the years, the process became more of a show and often included the playing of the first post at 21:30 hrs and the last post at 22:00. Bands and displays were included, and shows were often conducted by floodlight or searchlight. Tattoos were commonplace in the late 19th century with most military and garrison towns putting on some kind of show or entertainment during the summer months. Between the First World War and the Second World War elaborate tattoos were held in many towns, with the largest in Aldershot in the United Kingdom.

One of the best-known tattoos is held on the Esplanade in front of Edinburgh Castle each August as part of the annual Edinburgh Festival. The Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo was first staged in 1950; it combines the traditional sounds of the bagpipes and drums with the modern aspects of the armed forces. 

It is our hope and intent that the Guinness Cincinnati Celtic Festival’s Great American Tattoo will become known as the “Greatest Military Tattoo West of Edinburgh.”

Irish Kilts
Drummer
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