It took awhile to have June 14 designated as the official Flag Day.

First observed in 1891, June 14 was later proclaimed Flag Day in 1916 by Woodrow Wilson, then designated as National Flag Day in 1949 by President Harry Truman.

On Thursday, San Bernardino's Elks Lodge No. 836 will join thousands of other groups across the country in honoring the American Flag.

"This is a celebration of the most important symbol of our freedom - that's how Elks Lodge members feel," said Jim Smith, Lodge No. 836 Flag Day chairman.

Smith, who describes the ceremony as solemn and respectful, has served as chairman for 29 years.

The Flag Day ceremony, which starts at 7:30 p.m., will include a Welcome by San Bernardino Mayor Pat Morris, the History of Flag Day presented by Richard Rios, History of the California Bear Flag by Kevin Anderson, president of the Native Sons of the Golden West-Arrowhead parlor No. 110.

Andrea Swanson, the 2012 Elks No. 836 Scholarship Winner, will discuss "Why I'm Proud to be an American."

One of the most touching presentations of the ceremony is the "Tribute to the American Flag," recited by Jerry Rucker, past exalted ruler and past president - California Hawaii Elks Association.

"The inspiring Tribute is an anonymous written piece that's decades old," Smith said.

The Senior Moments Barbershop Quartet will sing the National Anthem and "It's a Grand Old Flag."

The program will conclude with the proper and respectful retiring of the flag by Boy Scout Troops 836 and 128 on the lawn.

"These 12-year-old boys do a wonderful job of retiring the flag with a lot of respect," Smith said.

The Elks Lodge is at 2055 Elks Drive, San Bernardino.

Prior to the ceremony, a fried chicken dinner will be served at 5:45 p.m. for $10 per person.

Reach Michel via email, find her on Twitter @michelnolan, or call her at 909-386-3859.