The small town of Bunol, Spain swells with 20,000 people and over 120,000 pounds of tomatoes every year for one of the world’s largest food fights, La Tomatina.
This messy fest started back in 1945 when legend has it, some locals started a food fight during a festival. The next year, the town threw another food fight during the same festival and the tradition stuck.
Today, the festival is so popular that participants must buy tickets and attendance is capped at 20,000 people. The giant food fight is kicked off in a strange way– it’s not supposed to start until someone climbs up a greased pole and retrieves a ham, but this tradition takes so long that in practice, the tomato throwing starts long before the ham is retrieved.
The tomato throwing only lasts an hour but covers the town in red. Shop keepers cover their storefronts with tarps and participants wear googles to protect their eyes from the acidic tomato juice. After the craze of tomato pelting is over, participants are hosed off or jump in the nearby river. The town is hosed off as well, and once all the tomato is washed off, the town is surprisingly clean thanks to the high acidity of tomatoes.
The festival takes place every year on the last Wednesday of August, so it’s a little late if you want to join in the food fight (although there are still tickets left). If you want to pellet people with tomatoes next year, plan on staying outside of the town and bussing in to the festival. Bunol is too small to handle the crowds.