It’s that time of year again in Buñol, Spain. Time for La Tomatina, the world’s most famous town-wide tomato fight. Of all the world’s odd festivals and traditions I’ve written about for this blog, this one always stands among my favorites.
It happens every year on the last Wednesday in August (that’s this Wednesday). More than 30,000 people get together in this little industrial town in the province of Valencia to partake in a huge tomato-throwing free-for-all.
The fun starts early. The thousands of people come to town and get started with a traditional breakfast of chorizo and rose wine. As they’re filling up, trucks roll in from the countryside carrying about 90,000 pounds of tomatoes (that’s a lot of tomatoes). Then, at 11:00 AM, with everyone feeling good and ready to go, a ceremonial tomato-filled rocket is shot into the air, and the madness begins. Everyone starts throwing tomatoes at each other. It doesn’t take long for the whole town, and all the people in it, to be covered in red.
Though it's basically total chaos, there are some ground rules. You can only throw pre-squashed tomatoes (whole tomatoes can do damage). And you can’t throw anything besides tomatoes. A lot of people wear safety goggles (I’ve never had tomato in my eye, but I can imagine it isn’t pleasant). And most people wear old t-shirts they don’t want anymore (many of which are removed and tossed at some point during the battle).
When the tomatoes have all been thrown, another rocket is fired, and the battle ends. Then it’s time to help clean up. Lots of tomatoes everywhere. And lots of smiles.