It takes a special kind of person to want to get pelted by great big red squishy tomatoes. Apparently there are literally tens of thousands of folks, around the world, who enjoy this treat. So when August comes rolling around, they all head off to the normally quiet little Spanish town of Buñol (population: 9,000). Once there, they take part in what is probably the biggest outdoor voluntary ketchup-making process – using hands, feet and other parts of the body to do so.
If you are planning to participate in this annual saucy affair, there are some things you should know about La Tomatina and its traditions.
Interesting Background Information
• La Tomatina takes place on the last Wednesday of August, every year.
• It originated in 1945.
• Unlike other Spanish festivals, La Tomatina has no religious roots. It began when some young men were not allowed to participate in the Giants and Big-Heads parade. They started up a tomato fight in the Plaza del Pueblo becoming an instant success.
• The fun and games begin when people try to climb a greasy two-storey pole to get hold of a ham tied at the top.
• The tomato fight takes place in the town centre – the Plaza del Pueblo.
• Before the event a large number of trucks bring in the tomatoes (generally from the Extremadur area).
• The actual tomato throwing begins at exactly 11am – signalled by the firing of the canon.
• The tomato fights last exactly one hour.
• There are no teams. It is every man and woman for themselves.
• The chaos ends when the cannon is fired again.
• By the end of the fight about 140 tonnes of tomatoes have been flung, squashed and pulped.
• The town authorities then move in with fire truck and hose down the square to flush the tomato pulp. The acidity of the tomatoes ensures that the ground is sparkling clean.
• Since the crowds (over 50,000 in 2012) have grown too large to be accommodated in the Plaza, the town council has started limiting the number of participants by selling only 20,000 tickets. Each ticket costs €10.
• No ticket, No Entry! There is no place to watch the tomato fight.
Tips & Rules
Before you go slinging tomatoes you should know and understand…
• Squash the tomatoes before you throw. Others could get hurt.
• No tomatoes can be thrown after the second cannon shot.
• No other objects are allowed to be thrown.
• Watch out ladies! T-shirts should not be torn off (your own or others) but this is seldom heeded.
• Wear eye protectors such as goggles.
• Don’t carry cameras, mobile phones, passports or other important documents. Actually don’t carry anything.
• Don’t wear flip-flops. Instead wear covered shoes that you can discard after the fight.
• Wear old clothes, or clothes you aren’t planning on wearing again.
After the chaotic fight and clean up, Buñol turns into one big party place with wine, cava and sangria flowing with really loud throbbing music to dance to. Some organisers and sponsors have taken to organising a La Tomatina after parties. Incredible!