New Year brings unique ‘fireballing’ tradition

Published 11:00 pm Monday, January 6, 2014

Disney World and Six Flags put on fabulous fireworks displays and thousands of people “oooh” and “aaah” as the fireworks exploded in bursts of brilliant colors.

But nothing can compare to the flares that light up the Enon, Alabama night sky in celebration of the New Year.

For nearly 25 years the Willie Henderson family of the Enon community has been “throwing” a fireball party in an open field to celebrate the New Year.

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Just when the fireball party will be held depends on several things, said Barbara Henderson Curry.

“Ball games and the weather actually determine when, so it’s not often that we have the celebration on New Year’s Eve or New Year’s Day,” Curry said.

“This year, we had the fireball throwing on Saturday night so we were already four days into the New Year but we had a great turnout and a lot of fun.”

Lynn Bundy has been fireballing since she was being told “don’t play with fire.”

Now, she takes her children out to the field to “play with fire.”

Her daughter, Morgan, is a veteran fireballer but Morgan’s little brother, Wes, was having no part of it.

Morgan has been throwing fireballs for a couple of years but it took a little peer pressure for Wes to pick up a flaming ball.

“Wes would stand way away but when his friend, Trace Jones, got there and started throwing Wes was right in there. He was proud of himself,” his mother said.

Bundy said that she has no qualms about fireballing.

“It’s tradition,” she said. “Children understand that fireballing is something that you do to celebrate the New Year and that it’s a game that you play at a certain time and always with adults around.

“It’s good for children to be a part of a tradition. You probably won’t find many fireball throwings and, for us to have a tradition of fireballing here in Pike County is special and we’re proud to be a part of it.”

Almost as soon as the last fireball was out Saturday night, Barbara Curry was back winding fireballs for the 2015 New Year’s celebration.

She winds while she watches television or on road trips and most often to the beat of bluegrass being played at local festivals.

“I start with an old cotton sock and I wad it up and start winding cotton crocheting yarn around the sock real tight,” she said. “I wind until the ball is a good throwing size.

Curry sews the fireballs so they won’t come apart and then soaks them in kerosene for several months.

On the night the fireballs are thrown, the Henderson family puts out a “spread” and says, “Y’all come.” Hot dogs, a pot of hot chili and all the fixings and a sweet treat or two entice fireball throwers to sit down and eat, but not for long. They would rather throw than eat.

But, that’s not true of the spectators who would rather eat and keep their feet to the fire.

During the festivities, there’s always a huge bonfire going and several smaller ones dot the field.

“You won’t see anything like this many places,” said Erin Ricks. “This is our first time and we’ve had so much fun. Fireballing is a great tradition and we’re proud to be a part of it. We appreciate those who keep the tradition going.”

Fireballing is a tradition that dates back to the 1920s in America but probably originated in Europe as early as the 16th century.