Everything You Need To Know About La Tomatina, Spain’s Huge Tomato Fight

On the last Wednesday of August each year, a huge tomato festival takes place in the Spanish town of Buñol in the Valencia region. This is perhaps one of the quirkiest festivals in Spain, and it is certainly one of the messiest!  The festival is known as La Tomatina and this year it took place on Wednesday the 30th August. At midday a whopping 180,000 tomatoes which filled 6 huge trucks, were distributed in the town for festival goers to start throwing at each other. Sound like your kind of celebration? Here’s everything you need to know:

What Happens At La Tomatina?

La Tomatina is a huge tomato fight and, as the name suggests, it is an event in which people gather in the town to pelt each other with tomatoes. During its peak as many as 45,000 people gathered for the red, gooey extravaganza, but to limit the number of tourists in the town La Tomatina is now a ticketed event.

17,000 tickets go on sale to the general public and an additional 5,000 tickets are made available free of charge to the town’s residents. This means that attendance never exceeds 22,000 but the event attracts visitors from all over the world.

Why Is There An Annual Tomato Fight in Bunol?

People didn’t just wake up one day and decide to start throwing soft fruit at each other! Instead a street brawl broke out in the town in 1945. The fight began near a vegatable store and the young people involved began to throw vegetables from the store at each other. The following year the young people of the town decided that the impromptu brawl was so much fun that they brought tomatoes from home, picked a quarrel in the street and had the food fight all over again.

Now revellers gather in the city and pelt each other with tomatoes every year to celebrate the original street fight and to have fun with their friends.

If you decide to join in the celebrations then you might want to pack a pair of goggles. Tomatoes are acidic so they could sting your eyes if you take a direct hit the face. Participants are requested to squash the fruits before pelting each other so they hurt less. This is not a time for cuts and bruises and the only blood on the streets should be coming from the tomatoes!

What Else Happens At La Tomatina?

As well as throwing tomatoes as your friends, family, and anyone else close enough to pelt, there are other fun activities that take place at La Tomatina each year. Most of these activities are also food related. You can watch (and sample) paella at the town’s annual paella cooking contest. And before the tomato fight begins you can watch the ‘palo jabón’, which is a unique spectacle in which a few brave participants climb up a greased wooden pole to reach a leg of ham. 

Is The Event Sustainable?

Of course, a lot of tomatoes are wasted during the La Tomatina festival and it would be unhygienic and unsustainable to expect participants to pick up their squashed tomatoes and cook with them! But you’ll be interested to know that the tomatoes in the festival come from Extremadura. If you live in Spain then you’ll know that Extremadura tomatoes lauded for their cheap price, low quality and inferior taste. This means that you don’t have to feel too guilty about the tomatoes that are wasted in the name of fun and celebration.

What Happens After The Tomato Fight?

When the celebrations are over and the last tomato is thrown the streets of Brunol are cleaned and the wasted tomatoes are discarded. But the town is left looking cleaner than ever before. Why? Because the acidity of the tomatoes acts as a disinfectant. 

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