2010 La Tomatina Festival – World’s Biggest Tomato Fight in Spain
More than 45,000 visitors from all over the world clashed Wednesday in a friendly tomato-battle known as the “Tomatina,” a peculiar celebration that is hosted each year by the eastern Spanish town of Buñol and at which the participants hurl more than 100 tons of tomatoes at one another for about an hour in what is probably the world’s largest food fight.
This year’s event transpired without any serious incidents and the municipal services only had to treat about a dozen people for fainting and slight eye irritations, according to what the councilwoman in charge of “fiestas” in Buñol, Pilar Garrigues, told Efe.
The 2010 Tomatina was marked by an increased number of participants, who did not seem to be bothered much by the heat wave the region has been experiencing when they “invaded” the town of 9,000 people early Wednesday morning.
Many of them had kept a all-night vigil in one of the local parks or inside their cars parked all over town to make sure they were as close as possible to the site of the day’s tomato-schlacht.
There were others who caught a little sleep just a few yards from the battlesite an hour or so before the event began.
As is the case each year, the celebration began hours earlier with the now-traditional street barbecues, the hurling of buckets of water from the balconies on the people in the street below, the pole smeared with soap up which people must shimmy to try and get a ham at the top, the throwing of wet shirts back and forth, a practice otherwise expressly prohibited because of its danger but which has become one of the classic behaviors engaged in on this unusual day.
There are also the costumes people wear and – although as the years go by it’s becoming more and more difficult to be original – the classic ones continue to triumph, including firemen, tomatoes, watermelon helmets and people wearing Elvis Presley-like sunglasses.
However, all the efforts to make the biggest splash with an original – or not so original – costume fall by the wayside when the dump trucks arrive loaded with ripe red tomatoes.
The loads are dumped into the square and the thousands on hand each grab up a few tomatoes and start hurling them at everyone in sight. It only takes a few moments for everyone to become liberally covered with red juice and seeds from their heads to their toes, and in some spots the tomato puree is soon knee-deep.
But if you think that it’s amazing how quickly the good-natured combatants pulverize and destroy the gigantic mounds of tomatoes, no less impressive is the efficiency with which the local residents subsequently clean the streets and building facades when the Tomatina concludes.
Hoses and buckets are brought out to facilitate the cleanup work – not only of the streets and
buildings but also of the tomato-covered participants – and it’s not long before all the tons of juice and tomato fragments strewn all over central Buñol have vanished. Until next year.
The larger number of visitors this year, however, meant that there had to be a strengthening in security, a task performed by around 120 police and a helicopter.
The festival, which had its origin as a simple act of “vandalism” in 1944, has managed – after periods of prohibition and censure – to transform itself over the past 30 years into a rather noteworthy international event.
In fact, this year’s edition of the tomato battle served as the inspiration for a movie crew from India who shot several scenes for a feature film, and for the South Korean government, which intends to develop a “sister-festival” relationship between the Tomatina and its Mud Festival in the town of Boryeong, where mud is used instead of tomatoes in a similar event.
In addition, about 30 media teams, including television networks from India, the United States, Ireland and Japan, had received permission to film the event from the town hall.