Held in the Valencian town of Bunol, La Tomatina is an annual food fight festival featuring tomatoes, and is held on the last Wednesday of August. The festival was first established in 1945, inspired by the way in which local children would have food fights in the tomato growing regions, and, ever since then, the festival has been one of the area’s favorite traditions.
Water and Wine Fight
The fun of La Tomatina always starts the night before the festival in an area called Requena, where the evening is spent having a few drinks in the streets with the locals. At 11pm, visitors watch a fake bullfight, meaning that no real bulls are actually used, and then, at 1am, everybody heads to the streets, following a grand brass band. This is when the wine and water fight stars, which, this year, was enjoyed by thousands of visitors.
The very first event on the morning of the festival, which this year occurred at around 10am, was the Palo Jabon. This event features a tall, two-storey high, greased up pole that has a cut of pork placed on top. The crowd bursts into song and dance as this is set up, after which someone from the town needs to climb the pole and knock the pork off the top. Once this has happened, water canons are set off, and this signifies the official start of La Tomatina, meaning that the tomato throwing will soon begin.
The Arrival of the Trucks
One of the rules of La Tomatina is that visitors need to make way for the trucks carrying the tomatoes, and, once these arrive, the excitement level dramatically rises. After the 175 tonnes of tomatoes have been unloaded, the crowd begin to hurl these at each other, although another rule is that the tomatoes have to be squashed beforehand in order to avoid injury. La Tomatina 2016 was most certainly thrilling, as the streets turned into a blur of red as thousands of people joined in this epic battle.
The actual tomato fight runs for about an hour, and gunshots are used to signify the end of the fight. Once the 2016 fight was over, the entire town square was covered in red tomato paste, and participants once again make way for the fire trucks who will be hosing the streets down. While you may expect there to be plenty of staining, the opposite actually happens, as the acidity in the tomatoes thoroughly clean any surface that they come into contact with. When it comes to the cleaning of the participants, locals that live in the area usually offer the use of their hoses so that visitors can quickly and easily clean themselves off.
In the past, visitor numbers to La Tomatina used to exceed 50,000, stretching the capacity of this small 9000 population town. However, in 2013, official ticketing was put into place, limiting the number of available tickets to just 20,000, meaning that if you hope to be able to attend next year, you will need to buy your tickets for this popular, one-of-a-kind festival well in advance.