PHOENIXVILLE — An organizer of the borough’s annual Firebird Festival has appealed to council for approval to move the event from its traditional location off Bridge Street to the north side at Friendship Field.
Borough council last week decided to hold off on a decision until a clearer idea of what a move would mean to the festival that attracts thousands of people to Phoenixville every December.
Henrik Stubbe Teglbjaerg, who organizes the event, was at last week’s council meeting and said he hoped council would approve the move sooner rather than later so he and others involved with the festival could have details hammered down.
“We’re not going to take action on it,” said Council President Rich Kirkner.
“Yeah, that’s kind of my problem,” Teglbjaerg said. “It’s kind of a long time not knowing...but obviously I have to accept (what council decides).”
“If it is a no, then I know what I have to do,” Teglbjaerg told council later. “But if I have to wait for one more month, then I can’t do anything.”
The 10th annual festival is scheduled for Saturday, Dec. 7, and Borough Manager Jean Krack said construction on the giant wooden phoenix statue burnt at the culmination of the festival begins in September.
Celebrating the “re-birth” and revitalization of Phoenixville after the steel industry left the town, organizers estimated that 16,000 people attended the 2012 event.
Part of Teglbjaerg’s request from council involved the closure of Fillmore Street between Franklin Avenue and South Street between 3 and 11 p.m. the day of the festival.
Some concern about changing the event’s location stem from concerns over parking and accessibility, according to Phoenixville Police.
“It’s always been a challenge,” Teglbjaerg admitted.
“The last thing I want is for it not to happen because people don’t have a place to park,” said Councilwoman Jen Mayo. “There has to be a solution.”
“People walk a long distance to get there,” Teglbjaerg said. “There’s a willingness...no matter where it is going to be, there is a problem with parking.”
Councilwoman Dana Dugan said there was some concern at a recent parks and recreation meeting over the safety of burning the bird at Friendship Field, whether it was more of a fire hazard than the Bridge Street spot.
According to Councilman Dave Gautreau, Phoenixville Fire Chief John Buckwalter confirmed via text during the meeting that he signed off on the move to Friendship Field, but that it would be “very restrictive.”
Gautreau also said Friendship Field has always been “Plan B” for the Firebird Festival if it turned out Bridge Street wouldn’t work.
“The old Bridge Street location seemed a lot more dangerous than this,” Councilman Karl Bucus said.
Kirkner said that “there are a lot of details to work out” regarding the festival and its location before it is approved.
“I think that with 12,000 people expected, no matter where the Firebird happens this year, this is the biggest event we have in Phoenixville and, quite frankly, we as a council need to make sure we show the public we want them to come here,” Mayo said. “People come from out of state and all over. I’m not saying this is the best location either...I think we need to show that we want this to happen.”
“I agree with (Mayo), with a crowd of that size there is no good place,” Bucus said. “It’s going to be part of our jobs as council to make sure it works.”
Council, minus the absent Jim Kovaleski, decided to hold off on approving the change until more information could be attained.
“We’re not trying to not support the Firebird Festival,” Councilman Christopher Bauers said. “We’re just asking for time.”