Phoenxivlle sets phoenix ablaze at 14th annual Firebird Festival

The 25-foot-high and 50-foot-long Firebird statue ablaze at the 14th annual Firebird Festival in Phoenixville Saturday, Dec. 9.
The 25-foot-high and 50-foot-long Firebird statue ablaze at the 14th annual Firebird Festival in Phoenixville Saturday, Dec. 9. Virginia Lindak — For Digital First Media
The snow-covered Firebird begins to burn brightly for a crowd of more than 10,000 people at the 14th annual Firebird Festival in Phoenixville Saturday, Dec. 9.
The snow-covered Firebird begins to burn brightly for a crowd of more than 10,000 people at the 14th annual Firebird Festival in Phoenixville Saturday, Dec. 9. Virginia Lindak — For Digital First Media

PHOENIXVILLE >> Along with the first snow of the season, Phoenixville welcomed in the 14th annual Firebird Festival on Saturday night, Dec. 9.

More than 10,000 people gathered in Friendship Field to watch the large wooden phoenix statue burn brightly against the snowy night sky.

The Firebird Festival is held each December to honor the revitalization of the town in recent years and to celebrate the approaching winter solstice. The festival quickly has become Phoenixville’s most renowned event, attracting more and more people from all over the Philadelphia region.

A colorful assortment of Firebird Dancers, drummers and community members carried the lighting torches up from Bridge Street in a whimsical parade. As they reached Friendship Field, they danced around the phoenix statue, entertaining the crowds as snowflakes fell.

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Despite the snowy conditions, the 25-foot-high wooden phoenix was set alight and created an epic blaze. The crowd watched as the fire grew larger, then cheered loudly when the first piece of the statue broke off in flames and fell to the ice-covered ground.

Event creator Henrik Stubbe Teglbjaerg designed this year’s phoenix. With a long tail, the statue measured more than 50 feet long. The bird was built entirely with donated wood and constructed by a team of volunteers. The process to build the phoenix takes months, and Teglbjaerg said he is grateful for the help he receives.

“Usually I stay back from designing it because the designer is so busy, and I also have to be present for the people that come and help. Doing both jobs is really challenging, so I’ve only designed three of the birds in all the years,” said Teglbjaerg.

He noted the festival continues to be a popular event as everyone is welcomed to become involved with it. At times, Teglbjaerg has considered discontinuing the festival, as it requires an enormous amount of work and commitment, but he said people in the community continue to urge him onward.

“So many people can get involved with it and the process. It’s a long time going, a 2½-month building process. There’s an anticipation. It also fits so well with the theme of our town, of rejuvenation. I’m surprised myself how important it is to a lot of people,” Teglbjaerg remarked.

To safeguard the statue from possible vandalism, Teglbjaerg spent the past few weeks camped out every night beside the phoenix. He noted the festival struggled financially, as overall costs for safety measures increased, so he put out the word that help was needed.

“The support had been overwhelming,” he said of financial donations. “There have been so many fundraiser events at PJ Ryan’s, Stable 12 and Great American Pub. I think that is what’s so nice about America; when there is a pinch, people really step in.”

With potential development happening near Friendship Field, there is a possibility the location of Firebird Festival may change for next year. Organizers are open to a viable option that would accommodate large crowds so the festival can continue.

“We don’t have another location, so this may be the last year,” said Teglbjaerg.

More information is available at firebirdfestival.com.