Who doesn’t love a good food fight? Especially a food fight where you paint the town red, both literally and figuratively! Well, there’s nothing greater than the La Tomatina festival in Bunol, Spain for that. And in case you’re wondering what it’s all about, yes, it's all about tomatoes!
The very definition of chaos, legend has it that the La Tomatina festival in Bunol is a peculiar yet unimaginably jolly outcome of a brawl that originated on the streets of Spain in 1945. It was August 10th, a parade of Spaniards hugged the streets of Bunol, and as we know, no large gathering comes without a ruckus. A brouhaha broke out as one participant found himself against the tarmac of the sidewalk, without wasting time, he began to fling and bombard the crowd with anything and everything that appeared in his path. It just takes a small tick to set a whole crowd going, and with a market stall in the midst, within no time it was a battle of the vegetables, flying through the air, aimed at one and other, including tomatoes. It didn't end just there, in order to commemorate the episode of ‘the vegetable ninjas’, the following year it happened again, another tomato battle, but this time the crowd brought the tomatoes from home. Even though the police prohibited this for a few years, the La Tomatina festival in Spain now is an official festival. And here is how La Tomatina has grown to become the sort of festival that tops many a bucket list.
Just like the clothes you wear on Holi, or the carnival, which are never to be worn again, on the 10th of August every year, starting early in the morning, crowd’s gatherer wearing clothes never to be worn again making headway from Valencia to Bunol where the final showdown of tomatoes takes place. Finally catching up to the rest of the masses making way to the city center, a pit-stop for food and a bucket load of drinks is made to get the party started. Eventually, everyone arrives at the city center and simply stops in their tracks. They park themselves at that spot as there’s nowhere else to go as the crowd is simply too thick.
The build up to the 11 am kick-off, commences with a competitive pole climb up a greased pole to win a slice of ham. The capture of the ham marks the official start to the tomato showdown-throw down, although the eager and impatient crowd gets the party started at 11 am, with or without the ham. Around 11 am there will be a truck full of tomatoes entering the streets of Bunol. And bang! From then everyone can go into a tomato throwing frenzy. One hour later, at 12 pm there's another bang and everyone stops throwing.
Ankle deep in a river of squashed tomatoes from a fight that lasted an hour, it’s now clean up time for everyone including the city streets. The fire department soon brings out their hoses and sprays down the whole city. If the attendees don’t find themselves clean enough by the additional spray from the locals and their kids who love hosing everyone, they head down to the river to wash off and clean up, and for some extra dose of frolic. Although the main event is under wraps, the party continues around the city in many of the plazas and hotels. Good food, music, dance and tonnes of sangrias take up the atmosphere of the streets until sunset when most of the crowd then starts heading back to Valencia.
Friendly, jovial and entertaining is what thoroughly describes this whoopee of a festival, La Tomatina. This is the world’s largest food fight accompanied by the unique Spanish partying spirit, a great opportunity to bring out your eccentricity, but first remember to squash those tomatoes before you throw them!