La Tomatina 2013: Spain's annual tomato food fight has everyone seeing red

Norman Byrd's picture

Food fights are craziness in and of themselves. They're fun, messy, wasteful, chaotic, and an outlet for disorganized passive aggressive behavior. And every year, the people in the Spanish town of Bunol hold a massive tomato food fight -- called La Tomatina -- with tons of the red fruit.

The Tomatina festival on Aug. 28 saw about 20,000 participants this year tossing, throwing, dousing, pouring, launching, flinging, and showering each other with tomatoes.

AFP reported (via Yahoo News) that this year's festivities used up roughly 130 tons (286 pounds) of tomatoes to literally paint themselves, the streets, and surrounding edifices red with the pulpy fruit. In fact, some of the partiers even "swam" or "bathed" in the thick red slop that coated the ground.

Tomatina may sound like a strange type of festival -- and it is. But like most celebrations and annual events, there is an origination story. According to LaTomatinaSpain.com, the festival began in 1945 as an angry protest when a group of youths were denied participation in the parades of the gigantes y cabezudos (giants and bigheads), which are large costumed figures. Ammunition was found at nearby market stalls in the form of tomatoes. Although police were called to restore order, the incident morphed into an annual event the locals call La Tomatina as they returned to repeat the incident. It has since taken on certain rules and is considered the biggest food fight in the world. And even if it is not, it most likely holds the distinction of being the largest tomato fight on the planet.

La Tomatina is held on the last Wednesday of August each year as part of a week-long series of festivities in Bunol. To keep things orderly, those that choose to participate are asked to adhere to a few rules. All tomatoes used must be smashed, so that when tossed or thrown they will not cause injury. Nothing else is to be thrown. Clothing is not to be ripped off of other participants (as wet t-shirts can be tempting to some). And all participants can only engage during the hour-long tomato fight between two barrages from water cannons, one to mark the beginning of the event and the other its end.

Goggles are suggested but not required and those with cameras are usually considered optimal targets. Otherwise, anyone on the streets of Bunol is considered a target for pelting.

The Telegraph has a quite the gallery cataloging the 2013 festival, revelers all a-glisten and tomato red. And by the looks of things, merrily and enthusiastically participating.

The festival has proved to be the generator of like festivals in the U. S., including a tomato fight at Soldier Field in Chicago in July that admittedly pays homage to the La Tomatina in Spain, a Tomato Battle in Irvine, Calif., and the upcoming Carolina Tomato Fight in Charlotte, N. C.

(photo credit: Graham McLellan, Creative Commons)