Thousands of people. Truckloads of tomatoes. The world’s biggest food fight. In case you didn’t realise, this is Grade A bucket list material.
In the last week of August in the in the Valencian town of Buñol, cheering crowds assemble around a tall greased pole erected in the Plaza del Pueblo. A hoofed leg of pork adorns the pole’s top – a prize to whoever grabs it first.
Frenzied celebrants climb on each other to reach it, stacking to become a teetering human-tepee. Feet slip on sweaty heads, and clinging hands reluctantly slide back down the slippery pole. When someone snags the meat a water cannon fires high into the air, signalling the start of all out tomato warfare: La Tomatina.
Now in it 70th year, the Spanish festival of La Tomatina draws roughly 20,000 participants annually. More than 120,000 tonnes of tomatoes are spilled through the plaza, turning Buñol’s historic cobblestones into a sea of red as participants chuck, splash, and slide in fragrant tomato pulp.
Of course, there are some rules: all tomatoes must be mushed before chucked, always make way for the tomato-dump-trucks, and only tomato-projectiles allowed. Beyond that, just about anything goes.
By the end of the battle everyone is stained red from head to toe. A happy parade of tomato warriors march down towards the nearby river to rinse off and rejuvenate, in preparation for the long night of colossal paella and freely-flowing drink ahead.
All things considered, it’s no wonder La Tomatina has become the stuff of legend.