As a kid, did you ever succumb to a food fight? If you did, chances are reprimands and clean up duty followed, but you snickered about it with your buddies and basked in the glory of the messiest shot fired. Fast forward to today. You may have grown up to be a professional, a parent or a preacher and are far too responsible to give in to such childish folly – or are you?
The world’s largest food fight, La Tomatina, takes place every year on the last Wednesday of August in the town of Buñol, near Valencia, Spain. Thousands of participants flock to the town to hurl over 100 tons of tomatoes at each other in a massive hour-long tomato fight in the streets of the town. The messy event is actually part of a week-long celebration of the city’s patron saints: San Luis Bertran and the Virgin de los Desamparados. The festival includes parades, concerts and culinary competitions, but the Wednesday morning La Tomatina is definitely a highlight.
The day begins early with breakfast pastries and sandwiches handed out so the tomato warriors have energy for the big battle. Locals douse everyone with buckets of water, to get everyone in the mood for a mess. A tall pole, the palo jabon, is greased with soap and a ham is placed on top. The first person to successfully shimmy up to the top is rewarded with the ham and their success triggers the main event. When the ham is claimed, usually about 11am, a water rocket is set off, trucks release tons of tomatoes into the streets and mayhem ensues! Participants are asked to squeeze the tomatoes to reduce the impact on their target, which makes for a saucy mess. As the tomato fight proceeds, everything and everybody is stained red with pulpy tomato mush. It lasts for an hour when another water rocket signals the end of the battle.
Afterward, firemen spray down the streets and the acid from the tomatoes actually bleaches and disinfects the cobblestones. Locals offer a rinse to the attendees and while their skin might benefit from the astringent therapy of the saucy tomato bath, there is little chance that their clothing will ever be worn again!
La Tomatina is a food fight that even the most responsible folks can enjoy guilt-free. This year, the big day is August 31, so why not make a spontaneous jaunt to Spain to join in the fun? Contact Covington Travel to secure luxury hotel accommodations in Valencia (about a 45 minute train ride from Buñol) or a stunning villa in the Spanish countryside. We promise not to reprimand or make you clean up.
All photo credit: RenoTahoe