Around the world, huge festivals attract tens of thousands of people because everyone likes a good party. More importantly, everyone likes a party with a good food fight, which is why everyone descends on Bunol, Spain on the last Wednesday of August. Each year around 30,000 people come to the city to take part in La Tomatina, a large, crazy, and very messy one-hour tomato fight that leaves all its participants and the city itself covered in a thick layer of tomato.
La Tomatina originated as a local food fight among friends in 1945. They enjoyed it so much that they repeated it the next year and the year after. The holiday was banned in 1955, but after Franco’s death in the 1970s, the holiday returned once more. Since the 1990s, the festival has grown each year as more and more people come to participate in the world’s largest food fight, and every year the city council happily provides the tomatoes that are thrown at the event.
Starting early in the morning, people wearing clothes never to be worn again crowd trains heading from Valencia to Bunol. They get there and join the other masses heading to the center, stopping for some food and a lot of drinks along the way. Eventually, everyone reaches the city center and simply stops. There’s nowhere else to go. The crowd is simply too thick. During the run-up to the 11am kick-off, many participants climb the greased pole to get a ham. When the ham is caught, the party starts, though I didn’t see anyone get the ham. They seem to start at 11 regardless. While waiting for that crucial hour, people drink, pour water on each other, and break out into the occasional tee-shirt fight.
Then the gun goes off, the fight begins, and the tomatoes pour out of trucks. But only video will give testament to the craziness. So while I was fighting, my friends at Travelyourself took my camera so I could bring you this:
There’s nothing I can say about the festival that the video doesn’t show better.
The fight lasts for one hour, after which the city is ankle-deep in a river of tomato juice. The party continues for a few hours in many of the plazas around the city before most crowds head back to Valencia to shower, siesta, and relax.
La Tomatina now charges a participation fee for visitors, starting at 10 euros.
La Tomatina was certainly the most interesting food fight I’ve been to. It’s quite dirty, and if you don’t like a mess or crowds, you wouldn’t like this. I had an amazing, energetic time, and that week I was there connected me with some of the most important people in my life. So for those looking to spend a few hours throwing food at each other, dancing in the streets, and drinking sangria at 10am, well, you better be at La Tomatina next year.