ONE of Spain’s most popular festivals of the year, and probably one of the messiest, takes place in Buñol, Valencia, on Wednesday August 26.
About 40-50,000 participants are expected to take part in the 70th anniversary of the biggest food fight in which tomatoes are flung with abandon with no other objective than to have fun and get extremely messy.
The roots of this festival stem from one hot August day in 1945 when a group of young people were having fun on one of the floats celebrating the ‘giants’ parade in the town square. Apparently, the movement of the youth on the float caused someone to fall off and the unlucky victim, furious at his fall, picked up some tomatoes from a nearby stall and starting throwing them at everyone in sight.
A massive tomato fight ensued and the police had to intervene to stop the brawl getting out of hand.
The following year young people tried to repeat the food fight and although it was discouraged for a few years, in 1957, it became an official festival and eventually, in 1980, it became the tradition that we know today as La Tomatina.
Naturally, having official permission to hurl tomatoes at willing victims is too good an opportunity to miss and since so many people want to take part, authorities concerns about safety has led to a limit on the number of participants and the establishment of an entrance fee.
At the end of the festival, fire trucks and hoses are used to clean the streets and the participants from the messy red paste of squashed tomatoes.