La Tomatina: the unforgettable tomato battle - Reuters News Agency

La Tomatina: the unforgettable tomato battle

Soaked in tomato juice, La Tomatina is one of the world’s biggest food fights.

By Sarah Emler | Aug 29, 2018

A train arrives, and an excitable rabble alights wearing plastic covered shoes, shabby clothes and goggles perched on their heads. They gleefully march towards the centre of the little Spanish town Buñol in Valencia.

It is time for the world’s biggest food fight festival which attracts over 20,000 participants on the last Wednesday every August. No journey is too far. People even fly from Australia and the US to join this unique festivity.

I say ‘Tomayto’ you say ‘Tomahto’

This traditional festival only needs one fruit: The tomato. There are different theories of how La Tomatina originated in 1945.

Some claim that a group of teenagers made fun of a musician or a city councilman during a parade. Allegedly, in a fit of rage, the target began throwing any object he could grasp –– including tomatoes from a nearby market stall.

Others speak of a fight among friends. In both versions, local police had to come and end the quarrel.

Let the food fight begin!

The following  day, the group returned armed with tomatoes and picked up where they left off. Officers ended the food fight again, but a tradition was born.

Every last Wednesday in August, people from around the world joyfully gather to throw tomatoes at each other. At 10 am a person is supposed to climb a two-story house to reach a ham and with that, the festival commences. Since that is almost unachievable and people impatiently await  the fun and splashy fight, water cannons interrupt and mark the start of the fight at 11 am. Trucks loaded with people and tomatoes start driving through the historic Spanish town of Buñol and the food fight begins in earnest.

Dye your clothes red with tomato juice

Yes, there are some rules! Such as watching out for each other and squeezing the tomatoes before throwing. The festival stops after one hour, once everybody is dripping with tomato and wading  in a lake of red sauce. Fire trucks clean the village with the help of La Tomatina’s visitors before they embark on a train in tomato-dyed clothes.
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