Firebird Festival on, site move approved

The wooden bird for a past Firebird Festival before it was burned.

PHOENIXVILE — The Firebird Festival is on this year and it will include a big, burning bird.

Borough council unanimously approved moving the Dec. 14 festival to Friendship Field on the north side of town at Tuesday night’s regular meeting.

The festival, a celebration of art and Phoenixville’s rise from the ashes of an economic downturn culminating in the burning of a giant, wooden “phoenix” sculpture, previously took place in the lot behind buildings on Bridge Street between Main and Ashland streets.

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“It will be a new experience with new issues and problems this year bt everyone is committed to making the event a safe and enjoyable Firebird Festival,” said Council Vice President Mike Speck. “Council fine-tuned the submitted appication.”

Councilwoman Jen Mayo said the application included some measures put forward by the borough’s fire chief, John Buckwalter.

Those measures reportedly include possibly limiting the size of the wooden sculpture.

Henrik Stubbe Teglbjaerg appeared before council as far back as July 9 when he said he hoped to move the festival to accommodate larger crowds, which have grown to 12,000, according to his estimates.

Teglbjaerg told The 21st Century Media earlier this month that he also wished to move the festival because the old site, which is slated for development by the Demutis Group, was unavailable due to insurance reasons.

Such changes and “compromises” had Teglbjaerg thinking of cancelling the festival and replacing it with a parade or something of the like.

Now, approval from council means the giant wooden sculpture can be burned for the 10th year in a row.

In addition, a parade to the new site at Friendship Field over the Gay Street bridge is also planned.

According to Councilman Karl Bucus, a crowd gathered at the meeting for the festival.

In the days following an announcement of a possible cancellation on the official Firebird Festival website, support grew for the festival on a Facebook page called “Citizens for the Phoenixville Firebird Festival.” By the time of the meeting Tuesday night, the page had approximately 800 likes and urged followers to attend the council meeting and a parks and recreation meeting beforehand where discussion on the festival was scheduled.

Councilman David Gautrau, who heads the committee, said it was the most heavily attended committee meeting he’s seen.

Before that meeting, around 2 p.m., Gautreau said he met with Brian Watson, Phoenixville’s public works director, as well as Borough Manager Jean Krack, Buckwalter, and Lt. Tom Sjostrom, of the Phoenixville Police, at Friendship Field to hash everything out.

“I told (the committee) I want to come out of that with a recommendation for council,” Gautrea said.

He felt it alleviated a lot of concerns to talk things ot there and make a statement at the regular council meeting.

“I told council, ‘This is an economic engine for our town. We should do what we hve to do for our town to keep this going,’” Gautreau said.

Speck said Watson will be the “go-to guy” for all festival matters moving forward, coordinating between the fire and police chiefs and Teglbjaerg.

Gautreau said he was impressed by stories from several members of the public who stood up and expressed their support of the festival.

“It was good hearing people stand up last night,” Gautreau said. “The one girl stood up and said she bought her house in Phonixville because of the festival.”

Teglbjaerg could not be reached for comment Wednesday.

Follow Frank Otto on Twitter @fottojourno.