The world’s most sticky festival and also the world’s largest food war breaks out tomorrow in the small town of Buñol in the Valencia region, 38 km west of Valencia.
La Tomatina is an annual festival that is always held on the last Wednesday of August, and has been arranged since 1945. It attracts large amounts of visitors, usually around 40,000 to 50,000 people. It’s a little unclear exactly how it all started, but a popular theory is that some young people started throwing tomatoes during the parade “Gigantes y Cabezudos”. They were interrupted by the police, but repeated next year, and a tradition was established.
The number of participants is now limited through that one must have a ticket to attend. There are “only” 22,000 tickets, and each ticket costs 10 €.
It’s all about having fun. In this case, one does it by throwing tomatoes at each other. The tomatoes from Extremadura are specifically grown for this purpose, they are cheaper and the flavor is inferior to tomatoes from other regions. For safety reasons the tomatoes must be crushed before being thrown, and there will be a record high amount of 150 tons tomatoes this year.
Actually the festival is supposed to start when someone climbs up along a lathered pole and brings down the ham hanging on top of the pole. But in practice it is a long process before someone comes up on the pole so the party starts when the water cannons and fireworks are being fired. But it’s up to everyone to try to access the ham on top of the pole.
While the tomato war is in progress, it is up to each individual to take care of themselves and after about an hour the “hostilities” are stopped when new fireworks are being fired. Thereafter, no more tomatoes are to be thrown and the fire department cleans up the streets with water from the Roman aqueduct. However the participants are not being cleaned, but must take care of themselves by going down to Buñol river to wash off. But there are occasionaly some nice inhabitants with water hoses.
To make everything work, there are some rules
- One should not bring bottles or other hard objects that could harm humans
- One should not throw his own T-shirt or tear off someone else’s T-Shirt
- One must crush the tomatoes before throwing them
- One should stay away from the tomato trucks
- You must stop throwing tomatoes after the fight is called off
- You are obliged to follow security personnel’s instructions
- Use old clothes, that are broken anyways – white T-shirts are perfect
- Wear shoes with a good grip, avoid flip-flops – they become too slippery
- Swim goggles or face masks are good. Your eyes can become irritated by the acid in the tomatoes. But on the other hand, the skin becomes very clean. Many believe, however, that it is enough to stuff the T-shirt in your pants and the edge can be used to dry out the eyes.
- If you want to take pictures, use a waterproof camera
- Do not miss the soapy pole. Whoever climbs up gets ham on top.
Participating in a food war might seem dangerous, but it is not the case. Last year, 22 people were treated for injuries, mostly bruises and cuts – it can probably be considered a small amount in terms of number of participants and the event’s smooth nature. More information can be found at: