Phoenixville Firebird Festival may be cancelled

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

PHOENIXVILLE — Meant to serve as a symbol of the borough’s rise from the ashes after sustaining an economic downturn in the latter half of the 20th Century, the Firebird Festival may stay in ashes this year.

According to the official Firebird Festival website, organizers are considering cancelling the 10th annual festival after issues arose when a site change stalled.

“We have struggled this year to find a site that can live up to our expectations,” a statement on the site signed by Henrik Stubbe Teglbjaerg. “Rather than letting the festival slowly dwindle, because of too many compromises, we (would) rather not have the festival and, instead, doing something different.”

Organizers, led by Teglbjaerg, believe growing crowds necessitate moving the festival to a larger space.


According to estimates by the festival, 16,000 showed up last year for the burning of the giant wooden bird in the open lot behind buildings on Bridge Street.

In a July 9 public council meeting, Teglbjaerg proposed to moving the event from that spot to Friendship Field on the north side.

Teglbjaerg hoped to have a decision hammered down sooner rather than later so he could work on the festival’s details.

“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.”

According to sources, council didn’t take any action at their meeting last month, either.

Phoenixville Borough Manager Jean Krack said council is very supportive of the Firebird Festival but have not been provided with information necessary to make a decision on approving the new site.

“Council has not said ‘no’ to the Firebird Festival,” he said.

Krack said Friendship Field’s status as a public park makes it more of a liability to the borough that would require traffic studies or a plan for storing materials.

“That’s the responsibility of any organizer,” to provide that, Krack said.

An application for the event and an email from the organizers announcing possible plans for a hiatus are still included in the packet which will be provided to council for the Sept. 10 meeting.

If the main event does, in fact, get cancelled, the spirit of the festival will continue this year, in a much smaller part, in Phoenixville’s Christmas parade Dec. 6, according to the statement from organizers.

“Yes, it is not the Firebird Festival, but being part of the Christmas parade is, in my mind, a wonderful vessel to multitudes of creativities, a blank slate, where we all have a possibility to unleash our creativity and excitement,” the statement said, “We can have drummers, colorful costumes, firebird dancers, fire spinners, Morris dancers, a firebird float, giant puppets, and much more.”

Building lanterns for the parade was also mentioned.

Teglbjaerg did not return 21st Century Media’s call or email at the time of this posting.

Sunday, a Facebook page titled “Citizens for the Phoenixville Firebird Festival” appeared on Facebook, posting information related to the festival, photos from celebrations past, and pleas and ideas from supporters.

“(I) think the pic shows nicely how the festival brings thousands together in a creative and peaceful setting,” a supporter who submitted a picture is quoted as saying on the page. “Would love for the festival to continue!”

According to the organizers of the event, the Firebird Festival’s “mission is to foster a collaboration of local artistic and creative talent and to enhance the cultural life of Phoenixville.”

Every year, a giant wooden bird is constructed and then burnt at the culmination of the festival before crowds numbering in the thousands.

Follow Frank Otto on Twitter @fottojourno.