The Mashpee Wampanoag Powwow: What Is Fireball?

This weekend marks the 95th Annual Mashpee Wampanoag Powwow.  If you are visiting the Cape this weekend and you want more than mini-golf and fired clams, I have a suggestion from a “local”: Go to this historical and cultural event that will engage the whole family! If you are a local and you haven’t been to the Powwow in a few years (or maybe you haven’t ever been?!!?) it’s time to go!

Over 3 days at the Cape Cod Fairgrounds, all are welcome to experience Mashpee Wampanoag culture through Native American dancing, drumming, games, food, art, jewelry, wampum, gifts, crafts and clothing. There are several highlights throughout the weekend including the Grand Entry at 1pm each day, crowning of the Mashpee Wampanoag Powwow Princess and the spectacular clambake on Sunday afternoon!

CCB Media Abigail Peters, crowned Princess at the Mashpee Wampanoag Pow Wow 2015.

CCB Media
Abigail Peters, crowned Princess at the Mashpee Wampanoag Pow Wow 2015.

One of the biggest draws over the weekend is the traditional Fireball ceremony on Saturday night. At dusk, worriers volunteer to honor their sick or ailing loved ones. Although the ceremony can, at times, appear to be similar to soccer (with a flaming ball), it is an event steeped in tradition. According to Tribal Chairman Cedric Cromwell, Fireball is a medicine ceremony and a healing ceremony. “It is the light of life… As these warriors come out onto the playing field, they are actually grabbing this fire” (which was at one time was ball made of leather strips soaked for days in whale oil and wound tightly around each other). Today, they use a ball soaked in kerosene. The lit ball is kicked, tossed, thrown and carried by these warriors on the playing field.

Cedric Cromwell goes on to explain why they are willing to endure the bruises and burns: “What they do is carry the pain of somebody that is either sick or who has passed to release that pain from them, as a warrior, and heal them, as well as heal themselves and their families. That is a rite of passage. That is so important.”

This is also why they do not allow cameras during the Fireball event. Fireball is a spiritual event and one to be respected. With this year’s Powwow theme “Honoring Our Circle – Breaking the Cycle of Addiction”, I expect the ceremony will be both timely and emotional. This is, by the way, an alcohol free event.

The 95th Annual Mashpee Wampanoag Powwow is July 1 – 3 at the Cape Cod Fairgrounds in Rte 151 in East Falmouth. Gates open daily at 10am with the Grand Entry daily at 1pm. For ticketing and other information, visit

About Cat Wilson

Cat Wilson is "That Girl" on Cape Country 104 – a Cape Cod native and longtime Cape radio personality. She is a passionate supporter of Military and Veteran causes on the Cape and also hosts local music spotlight program, “The Cheap Seats” on Ocean 104.7.

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