When first meeting Henrik Stubbe Teglbjaerg, I felt like I met the wind. A wind can be gentle and calming or a force to be reckon with.
In 1988, Henrik traveled from his homeland of Denmark to the United States for a one-year visit, always looking to broaden his horizons and wanting to experience what the states had to offer. He went back to Denmark after his visa ran out, only to return back to the states to live.
The earth and the universe seem to be a part of him. He considers himself to be a farmer. For the last 28 years, he has worked as an estate gardener, along with all his other undertakings.
Henrik does not have a television or cellphone but recently purchased a tablet to keep connected. He is a cat person; currently, he is caring for the stray cat in his neighborhood.
Henrik and the Phoenixville Firebird Festival are synonymous. Fourteen years ago, a committee was formed to come up with event ideas to support the arts and cultural life of Phoenixville. This led to the burning of the Firebird (the phoenix rising) and a festival to go along with it.
The first event attracted 150 people — in a lot in the downtown. Over the years, with growth, the festival moved to the Friendship Field on the northside of the town. The last couple of years, over 20,000 attended. To accommodate the growth, this year, it will be housed at Veteran’s Field. This field is somewhat isolated and faces many more challenges to be worked out.
After 2011, the original committee was abandoned, and Henrik decided to go it alone. But, he states, the venture is a townwide effort, with everyone coming together in a combination of creativity and hard work, especially with fundraising. Last year’s budget was over $16,000, with close to $5,800 for borough permits.
The cost of building the actual Firebird is minimal; all the wood pallets are donated, and additional building materials are about $300.
The first Firebird was 10-feet tall and grew to 30 feet. Last year, the borough limited the height to 25 feet, and this year, it will be 20 feet. Each weekend starting the third weekend in September, volunteers and Henrik will build.
In 2014, vandals set the structure on fire in the early morning of the festival. This only bought out the community to rally, and after the word went out, a new Firebird was built in 3½ hours. You can access all the details and to volunteer by going to firebirdfestival.com.
The event is all consuming, from the actual burning of the Firebird to organization of the festival itself and contributing events. There are musicians, sound, insurance, shuttle buses and, yes, porta potties. The borough requires that there be 21 potties for this event.
Henrik is planning a trip back to Denmark this winter (after the festival, I image, on Dec. 8) to see his two sisters, their four children and six grandchildren. It is the first time that he will see three of the grandchildren.
He lives on the northside of town where he has a garden. He does not cook as much as he combines foods to his taste, especially those he grows.
Here is a favorite dish discovered many years ago in the “Moosewood Cookbook”:
Butternut Squash Dish
Bake one butternut squash, and take off its skin when cool down. Sauté a chopped onion, and add one chopped red pepper and garlic for only a short time on the hot skillet.
Mash up the butternut squash. Mix it with yogurt, three eggs, thyme, crumbled feta cheese and the onions/pepper mixture, and put into a baking pan. Sprinkle the top generously with salted sunflower seeds, and bake in the oven at 375 degrees for a half-hour.
Enjoy!Let Bette hear from you: firstname.lastname@example.org. Search YouTube for “Look Who’s Cooking with Bette Banjack,” as well phoenixvillenews.com (search bar: Banjack) for this column. Find Bette on Facebook by searching “Bette Banjack’s Downtown Kitchen.” Her book, “2 Cups of Yesterday,” is available at Gateway Pharmacy or by contacting her.