It may not be surprising that every year in Phoenixville, a town of homegrown festivals and wacky artists, a sculpture of a phoenix is set on fire.
This year, the wooden sculpture will be set ablaze at 8 p.m. Saturday during the town's Firebird Festival.
Organizer Lynn Miller said, "The town was named for the bird," a symbol of rebirth. Legend goes that in 1813, the founder of the town's first iron company had a vision of a phoenix emerging from the flames and named his company Phoenix Works. Later, the town adopted the name Phoenixville in honor of its main industry.
The phoenix sculpture will act as a kiln for more than 100 clay birds that have been placed inside its body. There also will be a fire-and-ice sculpture, including candles inside the frozen artwork.
Leading up to the fire will be several events, including a holiday marionette show, a storytelling performance about the phoenix legend, and performances by the Firebird Orchestra, featuring six conductors. A drum ensemble will lead a procession from the Colonial Theatre to the parking lot of the Justice Building, where the phoenix sculpture sits, awaiting its fate. All events are free.
For a dollar, people can buy raffle tickets for the honor of igniting the town's temporary mascot. For another dollar, they can place a wish in a box that will be burned with the phoenix to help make the wishes come true.
"The theme is really about transformation. That's why wishes are important for individual transformation," said Miller, 55, who is a member of the town's Arts and Entertainment Committee, working under the Main Street Program.
The Firebird Festival started only four years ago, thus the tradition and rituals are relatively new. Still, it is catching on. In the first year, it drew 750 people. Last year, nearly 3,800 people watched the bird burn, according to Miller, who's lived in Phoenixville for 13 years.
Miller points out that the phoenix as a symbol of rebirth exists in many cultures, including Native American, Asian and Russian. She said many cultures also have bonfires to honor winter and bring back the light.
Miller added that Phoenixville has experienced its rebirth and is "in its renaissance."
The Firebird Festival begins at 4 p.m. Saturday on Bridge Street, between Main and Church Streets, with crafts, food and street performers.
From 4 to 5 p.m.
, there will be a holiday marionette show, Theater of the Stars, at the Colonial Theatre, 227 Bridge St.
, Storytelling Irma tells the phoenix myth, and from 6:20 to 7 p.m., the Colonial will host the Firebird Improv Orchestra.
5 to 6:30 p.m
., the Phoenixville Village Art Center, 207 Bridge St., will host Paul Wentworth and his folk/fusion guitar music.
Procession from the Colonial Theatre to the Firebird at the Justice Building, 347 Bridge St., led by the Drumming for Sanity Percussion Ensemble.
: Lighting of the Firebird, 347 Bridge St.
For more information