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Where it's OK to play in the street

In addition to its Dogwood Parade, Phoenixville plans May fairs to celebrate French and Celtic cultures.

Richard Holck Sr., owner of Artisans Gallery & Cafe in Phoenixville, is a Springtime in Paris organizer.
Richard Holck Sr., owner of Artisans Gallery & Cafe in Phoenixville, is a Springtime in Paris organizer.Read more

May is festival month in Phoenixville, with two new street fairs and one old-time parade. Fans of Paris, Celtic culture and dogwood trees will all have reasons to flock to town.

On Saturday, a Springtime in Paris fair will transform Bridge Street into Rue de la Bridge with strolling musicians, street artists, a fashion show, and wine, beer and cheese tastings.

Restaurants will expand their seating into sidewalk cafes, offering French specials. A deejay on an outdoor stage will spin French music from the 1920s to 1940s, such as chansons from Edith Piaf.

Strolling musicians will entertain. Artists will sketch on sidewalks, and performers will fill the streets with "Parisian-themed shows," said organizer Paul Oliver, owner of Wolfgang Books.

Kimberlie Cruse, who works at the Steel City Coffeehouse, is organizing the artists to perform in what she has nicknamed "France in P-ville." She also will perform as part of a group called Bag Lady Theatre, which will aim to amuse visitors with comedic storytelling.

And Medicine Men, a comedy act with Chris Quinn and Owen Timoney, will juggle and perform with fire.

What does Phoenixville have in common with Paris? Well, there is the rumor that steel from Phoenixville's foundry went into making the base supports for the Eiffel Tower.

Though the festival is endorsed by the Historical Society of the Phoenixville Area, Oliver acknowledged that about half the members agree with the Eiffel claim and half don't.

"That's what makes the festival extra charming," Oliver said with a sly smile.

The festival is the brainchild of Oliver, 27, and Richard Holck Sr., 61, owner of Artisans Gallery & Cafe. The stores are directly across Bridge Street from each other, and both opened on May 5 last year. In fact, the Springtime in Paris festival will take place on the stores' anniversary, although the proprietors said that was just a coincidence.

Backers hope the fair can be lead to festivals with themes revolving around Phoenixville steel's contribution to the world.

Holck said they were planning a Jersey Shore Day and a New York/New York Night since they believe local steel went into Atlantic City's piers and the Manhattan and Brooklyn Bridges.

To pay tribute to its ancestry on the other side of the English Channel, Phoenixville has scheduled its first Celtic Street Fair for May 12. Kelly Stewart and Rocky Roeger, owners of USA Kilts on Bridge Street, are sponsors.

Roeger is the resident who's always wearing a kilt. "I'm my own best advertisement," he said. Visitors can buy the same type of kilt that Madonna wore on tour, because the Phoenixville store hand-stitched 42 kilts for her and her dance troupe a few years ago.

Scottish bands will play on two stages. Albannach incorporates large, tribal drums and bagpipes into its music. Popular Toronto band Enter the Haggis will play at the Colonial Theatre in the evening. Children can learn Irish step dancing at the Colonial in the afternoon.

Vendors will sell Celtic food, including meat pies and Welsh cookies, which Stewart described as "pancakes with fruit inside."

The third Saturday in May is the date for the 56th annual Dogwood Parade, which celebrates the dogwoods blossoming in Reeves Park.

Dogwood Queen Maria Konstantinidis, a junior at Phoenixville High School, will parade through the streets of Phoenixville.

Why is Phoenixville getting so festive? Well, people love parades and festivals, and Oliver said Phoenixville hoped to tie them all to the town's history.

If You Go

Springtime in Paris fair: 1 to 9 p.m. Saturday on Phoenixville's Bridge Street between Starr and Gay Streets. In addition to continuous street entertainment, free events include a French-style beer tasting at 1 at Iron Hill Brewery, 130 E. Bridge St., 610-983-9333; a cheese and wine tasting at 2 at Ramondo's Cheese!, 164 Bridge St., 610-933-5716; Parisian jazz of the 1930s performed by the Gadjo Playboys from 3 to 5; a fashion show at 3; and a dessert and wine tasting at 4 at Artisans Gallery & Cafe, 236 Bridge St., 610-935-1965.

Celtic Street Fair: 10 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. May 12 on Bridge Street between Main and Gay Streets. Free. For more information, call 610-935-3444. Also, Enter the Haggis will perform at 7:30 p.m. at the Colonial Theatre, 227 Bridge St., 610-917-1228,; the cost is $22.

Dogwood Parade: starts at 1 p.m. May 19 at Franklin and High and winds its way through Phoenixville,