Firebird Festival organizer rethinking cancellation

Phoenixville Firebird Festival attendees watch the wooden effigy of the phoenix burn in a previous year. (Mercury file photo/Barry Taglieber)
Phoenixville Firebird Festival attendees watch the wooden effigy of the phoenix burn in a previous year. (Mercury file photo/Barry Taglieber)

PHOENIXVILLE — After reading comments and concerns from the community on a Facebook page dedicated to keeping the Firebird Festival going, the celebration’s creator is rethinking his decision to cancel the event.

“I wasn’t even aware of it before today,” Henrik Stubbe Teglbjaerg told 21st Century Media on Sept. 4 of the Citizens for the Phoenixville Firebird Festival page. “That made me rethink how we could do it.”

The Facebook page, up to 526 likes by 7:30 p.m. on Sept. 4, contains pictures, posts and quotes from supporters who hope to keep the festival, which culminates in burning a giant, wooden “phoenix” to symbolize the town’s rise from economic difficulty, going.

“The whole community is behind me,” Teglbjaerg said.


With such an outpouring of support, Teglbjaerg is brainstorming ways to keep the festival around. If it were to continue, the festival may look different than in years past and it is unclear if burning the wooden bird will remain a part of it.

Late last week, Teglbjaerg announced in a statement on the Firebird Festival’s official website that he was inclined to cancel the celebration “rather than letting the festival slowly dwindle” due to difficulties in finding a new site for the event. Teglbjaerg has gone before borough council to seek approval for moving to Friendship Field on the north side to accommodate crowds for the growing festival.

Council has been reluctant to approve a move due to a lack of information pertinent to holding the event at the new site, according to borough manager Jean Krack.

He emphasized that they remain in favor of the festival but are doing their due diligence when it comes to such an event.

If the Firebird Festival indeed does get cancelled, councilwoman Jen Mayo called it “an unfortunate loss for the whole town.”

“For many years now, the downtown businesses, residents and folks from afar have enjoyed the largest festival that Phoenixville has ever seen,” Mayo said. “I truly hope that the organizers and community leaders can come together to find a permanent home for the future.”

Additionally, insurance concerns from a company loaning money to local developer Manny Demutis made burning the bird at the original site off of Bridge Street a no-go, Teglbjaerg said. According to Teglbjaerg, Demutis is in favor of the festival, which he has supported in years past by providing the site, but his hands are tied.

Teglbjaerg plans to attend a council meeting Sept. 10 to hopefully work out an agreement.

“I’ve heard the hesitations and all,” Teglbjaerg said. “I think I can (put that all) away.”

An idea Teglbjaerg had was holding the festival at its original space, in the lot behind buildings along Bridge Street, but earlier in the day, in the afternoon. After concluding the festival in the afternoon, Teglbjaerg said they could then possibly march up toward Friendship Field at dusk.

He emphasized that he was thinking up ideas on the fly to keep the festival going.

Originally, when Teglbjaerg announced that the Firebird Festival might be replaced by participating in the Phoenixville Christmas parade, but after talking to those organizers, they decided against that.

“They want it very Christmasy and we’re not very Christmasy,” he said.

Now the only organizer of the event after his partner dropped out, Teglbjaerg said there’s a lot of moving pieces he has to manage.

Losing that partner, however, means that the festival will likely again be held the second weekend of December, meaning it will no longer conflict with the Phoenixville Holiday House tour, a previous concern.

If the festival does end up cancelled this year, Teglbjaerg isn’t positive how or if he’ll move forward with the actual festival setting.

But that doesn’t mean the celebration will be over.

“I want to support creativity in the town. That’s why I’m totally fine to convert it to a parade,” Teglbjaerg. “It’s such a changing river that we’re floating in, it’s unpredictable to say what the future is.”

Follow Frank Otto on Twitter @fottojourno.