155,000 tomatoes; 30,000 participants; hours of strident voices and raucous entertainment!
Yes, it’s that time of year for Buñol popular Spanish tomato festival, held at the Plaza del Pueblo. Buñol is a small village of some 9000 people whose population swells to some 30,000 around this event.
You can easily get to Buñol taking a flight into Valencia Airport, then 50 minutes by train from Valencia. A hire car would be preferable, as the accommodation is minimal in this area at this time of year, so Valencia would be your best bet for hotels, but you will need to book well in advance.
The festival is called ‘La Tomatina’. There are several theories as to how it began. It has no religious connections and was only started in 1945. La Tomatina is one of the most famous festivals in Spain, along with the Pamplona Bull Run.
The most plausible suggests is a disagreement between some youths and a member of an annual parade in 1945 in which tomatoes were thrown. The fight was broken up by police, but the following year on the same date, the men came prepared with their own tomatoes. The date then became known as the day of the Tomatina and has been celebrated ever since. It’s held mostly on the last Wednesday of August every year.
The festival starts early in the morning when everyone eats breakfast usually– Chorizo, toast, cheese and wine. A leg of ham must be taken from a greasy pole in the centre of the main street, people try for an hour until eventually the ham is reached. At around 11 am inhibitions are loosened, tomatoes are fired into the sky above the town via huge rockets and lorries dump the tomatoes. It’s now everyone for themselves as the tomato battle begins.
There are some rules:
• Bottles are prohibited
• T-shirts are to remain fully intact. This rule is ignored, resulting in a high nipple factor. In the end, everyone throws them off; those that still have them on that is.
• All tomatoes must be squashed before thrown and you are not allowed to throw anything other than tomatoes, including tantrums-which rarely happen as the festival is aggression free and brings out a community spirit, especially at the end, locals often will hose you down when passing to clean you off.
Swimsuit and goggles are recommended.
The festival has stands selling food and drink. Parades, fireworks and there are also rides. and for the Narcissists a high press presence from all over the world.
Rockets mark the start and finish of the festival, when the second one goes off the throwing must stop.