ONE OF FLORIDA'S OLDEST AFRICAN AMERICAN COMMUNITIES
In 1968, the late Ellis Anderson, established a day, where ones who once lived in the Community of Royal, could return home to visit. Thus creating the 'Annual Royal Homecoming' celebration of 54 years. Ellis was the grandson of Rev. Lawrence and Sister Moriah Anderson, who was one of the community's founding families. At that time, Ellis lived in Brooksville, FL with his wife, Hazel, and two children. He frequently traveled from Brooksville to Royal when visiting his mother, Ida Mae Anderson Steele, daughter of Rev. Anderson.
For this special day of returning home, Ellis asked the residents and their visitors to begin at a local church for morning worship and after church to gather at the Royal Park in the Royal Community Center for dinner and a meeting to plan the next year's event. The park was the site of the former Royal Elementary & Middle School before integration. The school's last cafeteria building, built in 1945, served as the community center. Every family was asked to bring a covered dish to make the meal where all could be served. Dishes, such as collard and mustard greens, conk peas, corn bread, macaroni and cheese, perlow rice, sweet potato pie, pig tails, pig feet, ribs, fried chicken, pound cake, peach cobbler, etc. were enjoyed by all. Most of the ingredients were freshly grown in the Community.
The first occurrence was the third Sunday in June, Father's Day holiday. There were only two churches in the Community: Ebenezer African Methodist Episcopal Church, Reverend Jerome Andrews, Pastor and Second Bethel Baptist Church, Reverend J. L. Hill, Pastor. The entire community supported both churches via worshiping at the Methodist Church on the first and third Sundays then worshiping at the Baptist Church on the second and fourth Sundays and alternating programs on fifth Sundays between the two churches.
Since the event would take place on the third Sunday, the first Royal Homecoming worship service was held at Ebenezer African Methodist Episcopal Church. Reverend Jerome Andrews, pastor of Ebenezer, served as worship leader and Reverend J. L. Hill, Sr., pastor of Bethel, was the messenger of the hour. The next year, the service was held at the Baptist Church with Rev. Hill, as worship leader and Rev. Andrews as the messenger of the hour.
In 1988, the community had a dedication service for a new Royal Community Center located at the Royal Park. At that time, a community task force was established to oversee the center's activities. Subsequently, this task force became the lead planning committee for the annual homecoming event.
From this humble beginning, this event has grown to welcome between 5 -6000 visitors at the Sunday festivities. Today, the Royal Historical Enrichment & Art Program (RHEAP), an after-school, holiday and summer program activities are offered for children and their families. The RHEAP program is held in the newly renovated old cafeteria building. In 2007, the building was awarded a Governor's Point of Light designation and is named the Alonzo A. Young, Sr. Enrichment & Historical Center, in honor of the last Principal, who served for 22 years at the Royal School. For more information, see our enrichment programs' link to the left.
Alternating the worship service between the Methodist and Baptist churches remained a tradition until the early 2000's when the service was held at a new community ministry: Bible Church of God, who hosted for one year. In 2009, the service was moved to a newer and larger community ministry: New Life Center (NLC) Ministries, Inc. with Bishop Leslie Hannah, pastor. The event still takes place on every Father's Day Weekend.