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Tomatina turns Buñol into a giant bowl of soup
thinkSPAIN , Wednesday, August 29, 2012

THE world's largest tomato fight saw 40,000 people painting the town red - literally - in Buñol (Valencia) today.

As is the case every August for the last 67 years, trucks carrying over 120 tonnes of ripe tomatoes unloaded their cargo in the town whilst tourists and residents waited for the firework to go off to signal the start of the internationally-renowned fiesta, the Tomatina.

Participants cannot start throwing tomatoes until the rocket is launched, and have to stop once the second signal is given with another firework an hour later.

This is one of the 'five golden rules' of the fiesta, which includes 'no ripping off or throwing T-shirts'.

Old hands at the Tomatina knew to wear goggles to avoid being suddenly blinded by a squashed tomato, and to wear T-shirts that they would not expect to put on again.

Some very creative participants had hollowed out watermelons and used these as helmets.

Others started out wearing fancy dress - costumes included pink rabbits, Samurai fighters, chefs with tall white hats, karate fighters and Spanish traditional garb.

Around 4,000 young people came from Japan for the fiesta, and Japanese reporters covered the event.

Thousands more came from China, South Korea, Australia, Argentina, Brazil, Latvia, Germany and France.

By the end of the tomato fight, as is always the case, the streets looked like a massacre had occurred - they were literally flooded with bright red juice.

The tomato pulp 'river' is usually deep enough that visitors can actually swim down the street, as shown by the girl in the photograph.

Portable showers are always set up so everyone can rinse off the tomato pulp, although some opted to strip off and jump in the nearby river.

In the lead-up to the big fight - which has always happened on the last Wednesday in August since 1945 - live music concerts, discos, parties and parades went on for several days until dawn.

The Tomatina, which came about during a protest when a group of young lads began hurling fruit and veg at market stallholders, has been officially recognised as a Festival of International Tourist Interest for the last 10 years.

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