PHOENIXVILLE — Volunteers gathered with organizer Henrik Stubbe Teglbjaerg this past weekend to begin constructing the giant wooden bird which will be burned at the culmination of this year’s Firebird Festival.
Sunday afternoon, two of the main supports were already constructed and reached more than 20 feet into the air at Friendship Field. A dozen workers sawed and hammered away at the timber which will become the main attraction of the Dec. 14 event which drew at least 12,000 in years previous.
“It’s like a bird landing,” Teglbjaerg, the festival’s main organizer, said of this year’s design, holding up a scale model. “People can get the feeling walking under it how big it is. It’s quite a large bird.”
This year’s model is the second to be done by Brett Williams, just 23, who recently graduated from Temple University’s Tyler School of Art. A sculpture major, he designed last year’s phoenix.
“Last year was my first year going to the festival,” he said. “I think it’s amazing so many people come out.”
Working with a furniture building company full-time, Williams said he’ll essentially be working seven days a week until the bird is finished, which could take two months of work every weekend, Teglbjaerg said.
“He’s putting in a lot of time,” Teglbjaerg said. “He lives in Philadelphia, so he commutes.”
“As much work as it is, it’s tough to turn down,” Williams said, smiling.
Jeremy Bowers is working on the firebird for his third year straight.
He said he does it because of the feeling he gets when he looks at “the smiles on 10,000 faces” when they see the sculpture.
“To be a part of something so big and so positive, it’s spiritually rewarding,” he said, taking a break from measuring and cutting a long board.
Although he loves the reaction of the crowds that turn out for the festival, Bowers ultimately just enjoys constructing the phoenix.
“I would do this if we were the only people here,” he said.
While Bowers and Williams measured and cut timber early Sunday afternoon, a group used hammers to pry apart wooden pallets and knock the nails off of them.
“That will be used for the skin of the bird,” Teglbjaerg explained. “This one is going to have a lot of surface area.”
A little girl, Olivia McCauley, even pitched in. While her mother helped split pallets, Olivia, sporting cowboy boots and a bright yellow T-shirt, handed out water in paper cups to any and everyone.
“Here,” she said cheerily every time she handed a drink to one of the workers.
Everyone showed up as early as 10 a.m. and worked throughout the day.
“We want to work the days as long as possible,” Teglbjaerg said.
Instead of its customary spot in the lot off of Bridge Street, the firebird is being constructed at Friendship Field off of Franklin Street this year.
Teglbjaerg considered cancelling the festival due to difficulties associated with getting the move approved, which stirred considerable public outcry and support.
That community support extended to this weekend, when someone brought lunch for the workers at Friendship Field.
“I feel a lot of people are behind us,” Teglbjaerg said.
Such is the community spirit that he said if he needs something, he can post something on Facebook and the material shows up, such as the pallets.
Being on the north side of French Creek now, Teglbjaerg said it opens up new possibilities.
“I kind of like the idea of including the north side,” Teglbjaerg said, citing various community assets.
The move does take the firebird out of the downtown area of Phoenixville.
“When we were down on Bridge Street, people could drive by and see us and honk their horn, like that car stopped there,” Teglbjaerg said, pointing to a car which had just slowed on Fillmore Street. “But there are some who do that up here. And I just love the community spirit.”