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The “La Tomatina” Festival – Tomatoes, tomatoes and more tomatoes

La Tomatina - Raining Tomatoes

Even though it is a bit ways away, Spain‘s messiest festival starts to appear into the minds of many inhabitants and travelers when the weather starts to warm up. We’re talking of course of “La Tomatina” the tomato-throwing event that takes place in Bunol, a town forty kilometers west of Valencia.

The usually drab industrial town swells in population from 9,000 to over 40,000 during this crazy event, event that starts with a large greased pole with a ham attached to the end being hoisted into the air. As peculiar as that sounds, it always happens at exactly 11:00 AM local time in the town’s main square, and as many participants as possible scramble to pull the pole down.

But that’s only the beginning, the moment that the pole is down, a rocket shoots into the air and that is the signal for more than one hundred tonnes of ripe tomatoes to be tipped from the waiting trucks into the street, so that the waiting and somewhat frenzied crowd to get to them, and that’s when the insanity starts.

For precisely one hour, everyone present joins in a chaotic tomato battle, and while the tomatoes are ripe and rather squishy they are also relatively heavy, and if you throw anything that heavy with any decent amount of speed, they will hurt once it hits you.

Once the reddish hour is up, a second rocket shoots into the air to signal the ending of the festivities – if one can call them that – and the participants can expect to be hosed down with water by the local fire brigade.

Now if the festival itself wasn’t interesting and weird enough, what is even more interesting to some is the festival’s origins, more precisely the fact that they are unknown. Of course there are several theories about it, ranging from a simple foot fight between friends to disgruntled townsfolk attacking city councilmen; the truth is that nobody really knows how it started but nobody also ever regrets it starting. It became an officially recognized celebration in 1952 and with the exception of a short period during the ’70s when it did not take place, it has returned each and every year with the same crazy, tomato-fueled energy behind it.

The majority of the Spanish participants simply come here by train in the morning and leave in the afternoon, once they’re hosed down and probably change clothes, however tourists from abroad who want to take in the entirety of the festival should plan so that they can stay for the entire week-long celebration which features music, dancing, parades and the night before the fight a paella cooking competition, it’s all great fun.

 

 

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