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Tomatina celebrates 70 years of street salad-fights
By thinkSPAIN Team Thu, Aug 27, 2015
VALENCIA'S messiest festival attracted tens of thousands of visitors from all over the world yesterday (Wednesday) for the largest-known food-fight in Europe.
The Tomatina, held in Buñol – about 40 kilometres west of Valencia city – on the last Wednesday in August every year sees its population of 20,000 double or treble as tourists from as far afield as the USA, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, China and Japan join in hurling ripe tomatoes at each other until the streets are literally inches deep in juice and pulp.
Following a week's worth of street parade, fireworks, concerts and food stalls which make up Buñol's annual summer fiesta, the Tomatina kicks off at 11.00hrs when trucks carrying up to 1,200 tonnes of tomatoes unload their cargo onto the street.
A flare goes off to mark the start of the fruit battle, before which nobody is allowed to touch the tomatoes.
The next hour is a frenzy of salad-fighting, but strict rules apply – even though it does not appear that way to the outsider.
Tomatoes must be squashed before they are thrown, no other items may be hurled about, glass and bottles are not allowed in the fruit-throwing area, and no pushing, shoving or ripping at T-shirts is allowed.
Also, once the second flare goes off at noon, everyone must stop tomato-throwing immediately.
Bystanders are unlikely to escape being pelted with the odd squashed tomato, so anyone wanting to take photos should put their phone or camera in a clear plastic bag to protect it.
Participants are advised to wear goggles, and also clothing they are not likely to want to put on ever again, since the litres of tomato pulp are unlikely to come out in the wash.
A change of clothing is essential, because public showers, fountains and hoses are set up so everyone can wash the tomato off themselves.
The streets are immediately hosed down and, by mid-afternoon, nobody who had just arrived in Buñol would know the Tomatina had taken place.
This year is the 70th anniversary of the food-fight, which started when a group of young men started hurling tomatoes at each other during an argument for and against Franco's régime on market day in Buñol.
After they were arrested, they decided to mark the day every year in the same place, and gradually, others joined in.
It was not until 1959 that authorities gave in and agreed to make it a real festival.
Web search engine Google changed its 'doodle' yesterday in homage to the Tomatina's 70th birthday and two Google Map Street View cars went to Buñol to take pictures.
One of them took photos before, but the other was present during the action and suffered extensive damage thanks to a few vandals.
Despite police and organisers attempting to stop them, a group of participants climbed onto the car and started rocking it, smashing windows and mirrors as they did so.
Some damage has also occurred to the cameras fitted on top of the car, so it is not known whether Google will be able to save the 70th-anniversary footage it had taken.
Given the tight controls, it is rare any incidents occur at the Tomatina, and Buñol's people and regular participants say they are disappointed a minority decided to spoil it for them.
To read more on this unusual festival, take a look at the feature on ThinkSPAIN: http://www.thinkspain.com/news-spain/9415/bunols-crazy-tomato-fight
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