THE WORLD’S BIGGEST FOOD FIGHT comes to Spain tomorrow as the Valencian province hosts La Tomatina: the annual fiesta that, uniquely, encourages tens of thousands of party-goers to actively pelt each other with squashed tomatoes.
Every year on the last Wednesday in August, the traditional Spanish town of Buñol in the Valencia region prepares to get seriously messy, as 6 articulated trucks deliver more than 162 metric tonnes of over-ripe fruit.
The fun kicks off at 11:00am tomorrow, Wednesday 30th August 2017, and the fiesta involves 22,000 participants – both locals and tourists, with a 740-strong security team comprising professionals from the police force, fire service, and health services; in addition to a number of volunteers to keep the crowds safe.
If you can pardon the pun, the tomatoes are “sourced” from Extremadura and shipped in specially for the festival.
Locally renowned for their cheap price, low quality and inferior taste, participants don’t need to feel too bad about squandering one of Spain’s most prized foodstuffs, although it does beg the question “So why do they grow them?”.
The traditional Spanish fiesta is said to have originated in 1945 when, according to La Tomatina’s official website, a fight broke out at a parade near a market that was selling vegetables and the crowd began throwing the food at each other. One year later, tomatoes were brought back to the parade for a second tomato fight (this time just for fun), and the local tradition was born.
Over the years the La Tomatina festival has grown in popularity and is revered and often parodied around the world. To ensure public safety, the event has been ticket only since 2013, with 5,000 local residents given free entry and 17,000 tickets on public sale every year for just €10.
La Tomatina 2017: it all starts with a ham on the end of a greasy pole
But of course, the tomato fight cannot get started until another Spanish tradition has been completed. One person must retrieve a ham from the top of a pole that has been deliberately covered in grease. Only then can the juicy mayhem ensue.
In 2002, La Tomatina was named as a “Festivity of International Tourist Interest” by Spain’s tourism secretary because of its overwhelming success. Participants are expected from all over the world, with Australians, Britons, Japanese and American tourists engaged in fruity combat, alongside local townsfolk and Spanish residents.
Participants are asked to politely squash the fruits before throwing them so they hurt less upon impact.
The fiesta typically lasts for just one hour, and once the tomato throwing has ended, fire trucks are used to hose down the streets and remove the debris caused by 165,000 kg’s of over-ripe fruit. Meantime, revellers head to public showers or jump in the local river to get clean.
What’s more, the natural acidity of tomatoes acts as a disinfectant, leaving the streets of Buñol cleaned and looking brand spanking new.
Photo credit: LaTomatina.info