PHOENIXVILLE - The downtown is gearing up for the annual Firebird Festival on Saturday, an event which is expected to bring thousands of people to the IronWorks District.

An afternoon and evening of activities will build up to the point when the 24-foot-high wooden phoenix will be burned at 8 p.m. across from the Foundry on Main Street.

Prior to the burning, a drawing will determine who will be the Fire Master, the person who actually gets to light the pyre. Tickets for the drawing are $1, and are available at The Colonial Theatre, Phoenix Village Arts Center, Bridge Street Bookshop, Ellie's Choice, Cheese, the Old Moose Grill, Steel City Coffee House and Jaworski's Music Center.

The winner will be chosen and announced at 7:50 p.m. by a representative of the Phoenix Property Group, which sponsored the festival this year along with the 5 County Arts Fund. All proceeds will go toward the IronWorks Arts and Entertainment fund.

From 6 p.m. until 11 p.m. at the Justice Center on the 300 block of Bridge Street, the Party For the Arts, a fundraiser for the Arts and Entertainment District, including the mural fund, will take place. Tickets for the event are available at the Bridge Street Bookshop as well as the Main Street-CDC office, and are $20. The admission fee includes light food and refreshments as well as beer.

The day's festivities are slated to begin at 2 p.m. at the Morning Star Book Store on Bridge Street, where festival-goers can participate in clay-bird making. The giant phoenix bonfire will act as a kiln to fire the "baby" birds, symbolizing new life in an updated version of the myth of the phoenix.

The Colonial Theatre will host a variety of shows on Saturday, including a Marionette Theatre at 4 p.m. and the telling of the "Phoenix" story, which will be followed by the Firebird Orchestra.

At 7:15, the Drumming For Sanity percussion ensemble will lead a parade from the Theatre to the Firebird site, where they will begin the Firebird festivities, which include a fire spinner.

The idea for the festival was cooked up by local artist Lynn Miller and Main Street-CDC Executive Director Barry Cassidy two summers ago, and is quickly becoming a much-loved tradition.

The festival, which is held near the Winter Solstice (Dec. 21, the first day of the new season), pays tribute to the legend of the phoenix, which rose from the ashes of its own funeral fire and brought forth new life, not unlike Phoenixville itself as it undergoes revitalization from its industrial roots to rebirth as a center for arts and entertainment.

According to a press release from Miller, whether you find meaning in Christmas, Kwanzaa, Hanukkah, or the Winter Solstice, this festival offers an opportunity to come together to celebrate family, community, and spiritual renewal. As the darkest and shortest day of winter approaches, the festival provides a unique way to reflect on the old year and look forward to the new.

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