Phoenixville >> After weeks of deliberation, a deal has finally been reached. The Phoenixville Firebird Festival is ready to ignite.
In a 6-0 decision, Phoenixville Borough Council approved the annual event during Tuesday night’s meeting. Board members Shai Perednik and Jennifer Mayo were absent. The festival is scheduled for Dec. 5 at Friendship Field.
Borough officials and members of the newly formed Firebird Festival committee met July 20 to discuss some of the issues that tied up the celebration from moving forward. Concerns over cost and safety, among other things, were the focus of the meeting and all sides were eventually able to reach a compromise.
“I would just like to thank the members of committee, as well as those attending from the borough,” said council member Jon Ichter II. “I’m very pleased by what came out of that meeting.”
The festival, which began more than a decade ago by artist Henrik Stubbe Teglbjaerg, symbolizes the borough’s rise from the ashes of an economic downturn by burning a roughly 30-foot wooden statue of a phoenix to the ground each year. Thousands from across the region converge on the borough for the celebration that includes local artists and performers.
This year’s festival may look slightly different than years past. According to officials the event is approved under the following conditions: The phoenix statue can not be taller than 21 feet and must be burned in a 20-by-20 foot section of the Friendship Field parking lot. The borough will provide power to the existing lot for light and will require a $2,100 deposit for any damages to the field. The event must be cleaned up within seven days.
Firebird Festival committee member Lisa Longo said money for the deposit has already been pledged.
The conditions also stated there can be no camping on the field prior to the event, and anyone wishing to provide security for the bird must notify the police department in order to park their cars in the parking lot or in a nearby parking stall on Filmore Street.
The offers of security stem from vandals striking last year, burning the bird during the early morning hours before the festival was set to occur.
Ichter said he’d like to see Friendship Field become the permanent home for Firebird and suggested installing a concrete pad on the parking lot specifically for the festival. Borough Manager Jean Krack said a plan is already in place to have for next year’s festival.
“I’m happy we’ve come to what is an agreeable solution,” Ichter said.
Council President James Kovaleski and council member Christopher Bauers echoed Ichter’s thanks to the various officials involved in reaching an agreement.
“I think (the meeting) was a great way to bring us to where we are today,” Kovaleski said.
“It is a well thought out and well meaning plan to move forward,” Bauers said.
The hesitation to hold the event again stemmed from the destruction left behind last year. <URL destination="http://www.pottsmerc.com/general-news/20150624/phoenixville-wants-new-nest-for-firebird-festival">The event’s organizers left plenty of mess at Friendship Field that took weeks to clean up. The field also suffered damages from straw left on the ground that mixed with water and hardened like concrete.
</URL>And it didn’t help that vandals burned the original sculpture to the ground early, causing a rush to rebuild the giant bird in time. The increased foot traffic and vehicle tire tracks from that rush, combined with the large crowds that surrounded the bird at the event left the saturated field unusable.
Hearing about the trouble the festival faced, a number of organizations stepped up to voice their support, including the newly-formed Firebird Festival committee, Phoenixville Jaycees, Phoenixville Area Business Association, PABA, and the Boy Scouts. Each volunteered to help get the festival off the ground and guaranteed that what happened last year was an anomaly that wouldn’t happen again. Some even volunteered to camp out overnight to provide security for the bird in order to prevent arsonists from attacking the bird again.
<URL destination="http://www.pottsmerc.com/general-news/20150715/phoenixville-firebird-festival-talks-tabled">While many council members said at the July 15 meeting they favored the event, the proposal submitted to them lacked focus and needed more time before they could sign off, they said.
</URL>After Tuesday’s decision, several community members and PABA representative Julie Winkler, expressed their gratitude to council for its approval of the event.
“I would like to say as one of the representatives of PABA how committed we, the merchants of Phoenixville … are to the Firebird, and promoting it as a community event,” she said. “Also promoting people coming from outside the region to enjoy what we do as a community artistically and celebrating our traditions.”