Think food fights are only in television shows? Then, you obviously haven't heard about Spain's La Tomatina - the world's biggest food fight where thousands of people paint the town of Bunol red (literally), by pelting each other with tomatoes.
The festival, which takes place on the last Wednesday of August is an annual tradition that dates all the way back to 1945, when a few disgruntled youngsters decided to disrupt a parade, because they were not allowed to participate. Since they happened to be standing next to a vegetable stand, they just picked up as many tomatoes as they could find, and began throwing them at the participants and bystanders. Despite being punished by the local authorities, the youths kept coming back for a few years with their own supply of tomatoes. Soon other people began to join in and a fun tradition was born!
Today, La Tomatina is one of Spain's most popular and anticipated festivals that spans an entire week, culminating with this popular tomato fight. The night before the grand finale, the streets of Bunol are lined with large pans of delicious tomato Paella simmering on wood-burning fires. Tourists and locals alike, gather and enjoy the good food and drinks until the wee hours of the morning.
On the day of the big fight, area businessmen scramble to cover their storefronts with tarps. As the time for the fight draws near, thousands of people flock to the designated streets to get ready. However, the tomato fight can begin only after a volunteer succeeds in getting to a ham that officials place on top of a greasy pole.
Once that happens, a siren is sounded and hundreds of bags of tomatoes are tossed to the eagerly awaiting crowd so that the mayhem can begin! In order to avoid injuries and keep the 'fight' a family-friendly event, participants are required to squash the tomatoes, before tossing them. Physical contact with an opponent and glass bottles are also prohibited.
Over 40,000 participants, some from as far as Japan and Australia converged to Bunol to celebrate this year's festival, which took place on August 31st. The enthusiastic crowd pelted each other for an hour until the siren warning indicating the end, was sounded by the officials.
The tired but exhilarated crowd still dripping and slipping over the red juices first headed over to the river or makeshift hose showers to rinse off and then, to a scrumptious lunch and well-deserved siesta . . . all promising to be back for next year's La Tomatina!