Wednesday 25 Jul, 2012

Doing a Food Fight Right – La Tomatina Festival in Spain


If you’re travelling to Spain this August, you won’t want to miss La Tomatina, a giant food fight held in the town of Bunol. As many as 40,000 people have made the trek to the small town to throw more than 100 tons of ripe tomatoes at each other in the streets.

La Tomatina takes place on the last Wednesday of August each year. The festival is one week long and includes music, parades, dancing, and fireworks. The tomato fight itself only lasts for one hour, but makes for a very crazy good time. To prepare for an extremely messy day, local shopkeepers cover their storefronts with plastic.

At 11am on the day of the tomato fight, a ham is placed on top of a large, greased-up pole in the centre of town. Participants can only begin throwing tomatoes once someone is able to climb up the pole and grab the ham.

Once the ham has been claimed, a cannon signals the beginning of the food fight. Large trucks drive through the street and dump thousands of tomatoes for the crowd to throw at each other. Several times throughout the fight, trucks come by and bring more tomatoes. Locals often sit on top of the trucks firing tomatoes at the crowd.

Covered in plastic, ready to go.

Basically, the hour consists of wading through thousands of squished tomatoes and throwing as many as you can at anyone you can find. It will be the craziest, messiest, most fun hour you will spend. A few things to remember:

  • You MUST squish the tomatoes before you throw them. This way, no one gets hurt.
  • No throwing any other objects – tomatoes only!

After exactly one hour, the same cannon signals the end of the fight and no more tomatoes can be thrown. Fire trucks drive by and spray down the streets. Some residents or shopkeepers are often kind enough to hose people down.

Here are a few tips for people participating in the messiness:

  • Wear white! It is customary, and probably makes for the best pictures.
  • Wear something you don’t mind throwing out after. You will get extremely dirty.
  • It’s best not to wear sandals or flip flops. They will either fall off or you will get hurt. Be sure to wear an old pair of sneakers that you don’t mind disposing of after the fight is over.
  • Wearing goggles isn’t mandatory, but it’s not a bad idea. You will be able to buy them in Bunol from kiosks.
  • If you want pictures, a disposable waterproof camera is your best bet. A camera full of tomato juice isn’t very easy to clean.

Flickr photos via Mr. Muddy Suitman, burgundavia