Royal Oak celebrates centennial with Roaring 20s, holiday-themed event

Erica Hobbs
Special to The Detroit News

Royal Oak is celebrating its centennial in style with “Downtown Winter Wonderland: The Celebration of the Century,” a two-day event that pairs 1920s-themed festivities with a holiday celebration.

The city, which incorporated on Nov. 8, 1921, will also show off a series of new buildings and renovations as well as dedicate Centennial Commons, a park located downtown. 

“We’re really focusing on where we started and where we are today,” said Judy Davids, Royal Oak’s community engagement specialist. “I hope people leave really excited for the next 100 years of Royal Oak.”

Outdoor highlights of the event include live music and a tree lighting ceremony at 6:30 p.m. Thursday outside the 44th District Court with the Centennial Commons park dedication at 6:30 p.m. Friday. With help from the Shakespeare Royal Oak actors, guests can take walking tours of the park where they can interact with historical figures from the city’s past, as well as enjoy vintage carolers. The festival also will  feature horse-drawn trolly rides, s’more-making stations, roasting chestnuts, food trucks and outdoor vendors.

Shakespeare Royal Oak actors will portray historical characters from Royal Oak's past.  Jenni Clark (as Elizabeth Briggs), left, Bryan Conroy (as Almon Starr), and CJ Williams (as Elizabeth Hamer).

“We’ve always had a holiday market, and we’ve always had a tree lighting, but this year we wanted to do something bigger for the centennial,” said Davids. 

The new buildings include the Royal Oak branch of the Henry Ford Health System Medical Center, which opened earlier this fall, as well as City Hall and the Royal Oak Police Station, both of which opened last year. The library will also be open, showcasing its recent renovations, including new rooms and flooring. 

“I think it’s really fair to say, we really do have a civic center now,” said Davids. “We have all our buildings sort of on one campus and a beautiful 2-acre park in the middle of it all. It’s really, really cool.”

Indoor highlights include live Jazz Age entertainment at the Farmers Market as well as its annual Holiday Magic Craft Show. City Hall will host a history exhibit as well as a showing of Charlie Chaplin’s “The Kid” from 1921. Visitors will also be able to see the building’s 5-by-8-foot ceramic “Royal Oak Roots” mural, which features figures and elements from the city’s history, and meet its artists Laurie Eisenhardt and Marcia Hovland. 

“The best thing about City Hall is that mural,” said Davids. “It’s so beautiful.”

The "Royal Oak Roots" mural, by Laurie Eisenhardt and Marcia Hovland, is on display inside Royal Oak's new city hall.

Other activities include making vintage buttons at the library, visiting Santa Claus, making holiday cards at the police station and touring the new Henry Ford medical center. Masks are required while indoors.

“I think if you are from Royal Oak, you’re going to learn a lot about our past and you’re going to see what’s happening now,” Davids said. “We have so many new buildings right now, I think you’re just going to be really excited for the future, too.”

'Downtown Winter Wonderland: The Celebration of the Century'

4-9 p.m. Thursday-Friday

downtown Royal Oak

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