While we often associate throwing tomatoes with an unfortunate theatre performance or as a way to humiliate the village idiot, Spain has a different use for tomato tossing. On the last Wednesday of August every year, the townspeople from the Valencian town of Buñol, Spain, and travelers from around the world gather to participate in an hour-long celebration known as La Tomatina. While reading about the festival for logistical purposes is useful for knowing how to prepare, there simply is no substitute for getting down and dirty and experiencing the unique Spanish tradition for yourself.
Toss Those Tomatoes
A tradition since 1945, around 11 a.m., trucks filled with tomatoes make their way to the town center, or Plaza del Pueblo, in preparation for the big brawl. The event cannot officially start until one individual successfully climbs up a greasy wooden pole in order to reach a prized ham at the top. However, this challenge is often met with time-consuming trial and tribulations as many try to secure the meat. Once successful, a shot of the water cannon signals the food fight begins. It's every man or woman for themselves against the mighty force of smushed tomatoes. The festival has a daily ticket price of about €10, but if you really want to go all out, you can pay €750 to ride on one of the tomato trucks, which offer an unlimited supply of ammunition.
Play with your Food
Although your mother probably wouldn't condone it, La Tomatina is the one-day-a-year where playing with your food is encouraged and expected. There are of course, a number of rules to ensure a safe and rewarding experience:
1. Tomatoes must be pre-squashed prior to throwing.
2. Hard objects are strictly forbidden.
3. Participants should be conscious of the street and make room for trucks and other vehicles.
4. After the second shot signifying the end of the festival, no more tomatoes may be thrown.
Other than that, anything goes. Toss those tomatoes!
Ain't No Party Like a Tomato Party
The bizarre origins of La Tomatina were never fully documented so we are left to make assumptions based on popular theories and rumors. Many hypothesize the festival began after upset townspeople pelted a city councilman with tomatoes in a public celebration. As the event grew and grew, it got so out of hand it was banned for a few years in the 70's, until it was handed over to the government to manage. The event has become so popular that the town of Buñol has been forced to limit the amount of participants to 20,000 lucky people who manage to get their hand on a ticket. If you have the opportunity to possess one of these rare and sought after tickets, you simply must take advantage of the once in a lifetime tomato tossing festival!