Date 2015: Wednesday 26th August 2015
Words by Paul Dodson
On the last Wednesday of August each year an estimated 10,000 people converge on the small Spanish town of Buņol to get down and get dirty.
Nothing strange about that, I mean who doesn't enjoy a little debauchery every now and again. It's just the way in which they get their kicks that makes for a memorable, if sticky experience.
As history spells it out, what began in 1944 as a simple tomato fight between a group of friends in the town's main square - the Plaza del Pueblo - has turned into arguably the worlds largest food fight. Actually, there is very little to argue about.
The festivities begin in the week leading up to La Tomatina with a celebration of the towns' Patron Saint. Fireworks light the heavy summer sky while street parties warm up at ground level. Rose wine flows and the hefty scent of wood fired paella fills the air. Music plays and people dance, a festival in full swing using any definition you care to apply.
But the majority of revelers are here for one thing and one thing alone - the chance to run amok with 90,000 pounds of gooey, squishy fruit - the rest is just a bonus.
Early Wednesday morning as a prelude to the inevitable result of encouraging thousands of people to throw fruit at each other, shopkeepers along the Plaza line their storefronts and doors with plastic sheeting.
Within hours the Town Square is awash with travellers and locals alike. Seasoned veterans mix with wide eyed first timers as more rose wine is passed around and the excitement level grows.
Then at around about noon, a number of trucks carrying the edible red grenades rumble their way into the main Town Square to the unimaginative chant of "tomatoes, tomatoes, tomatoes" from the now drunken crowd. Not wanting to disappoint the eager hordes, locals known as 'instigators' begin unloading their cargo on the assembled throng from the back of the trucks. And not being the types to take this sort of thing lying down the revelers return fire. So before you know it and totally to plan, you've got a tomato fight on your hands.....and your faces and your backs. You get the picture and what a messy shot it is.
Chivalry slinks out of town for a while as everyone becomes fair game. Red missiles are a dime a dozen, no-one escapes. It all begins and ends within the space of an hour. Little is sacred, although some rules do apply - foremost, tomatoes must be squashed in the hand before hurling. Not unreasonable.
The aftermath looks a little like a latter scene in Carrie. The ground, a fantastic base for the worlds largest Bolognese sauce. As exhausted combatants trudge their way towards temporary showers put in place for the event, the cleanup begins in earnest. And within hours, the Plaza del Pueblo magically returns to its former glory.
La Tomatina on the Map
Buņol is about 30km from Valencia.