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How’s your garden growing? More tomatoes than you know what to do with? Then perhaps you can understand the draw of La Tomatina, the world’s oldest and most ridiculous food fight.
You may never have heard of the tiny, Spanish town of Bunol, near Valencia, but at the end of summer, Bunol—a tiny town of under 10-thousand residents—triples its population for La Tomatina, and what has become the world’s largest food fight.
That’s right. I said food fight.
The Bunol party is listed among the 8-strangest-holidays in the world. Go figure.
Starting at about 11 a.m., the big trucks roll in, loaded down with red, drippy tomatoes and dropping off all at the Plaza del Pueblo.
Here, visitors may notice a couple of oddities.
First, you’ll see the storefronts are mostly draped in plastic. That’s to keep the upcoming tomato-massacre at bay from their plaster and stucco surfaces.
Second, you’ll notice the large upright 2-story wooden pole—the Palojabón—in town square which is where the magic begins in this odd ritual. Because at the tippy-top sits a ham. A Ham. I’m not kidding folks, it gets better.
Third, in order for La Tomatina to officially begin, some brave soul must risk the climbing of that soaped up, 2-story pole (you can’t make this up), and shimmy up to get that ham.
The cobbled plaza fills with mounds of tempting, overripe tomatoes from the nearby growing district, Extremadura, where tomatoes are cheap and plentiful. Waiting for someone to reach and claim that ham. If you make it to the top of the pole and reach the ham, it’s YOURS! Congratulations!
For all that trouble, it better be prosciutto.
While all wait for the great ham-climb, young and old gather to wait and watch. And let’s face it. Sometimes, the tomatoes start flying early.
Food fighters throw their squishy red globs with gusto, hurling the overripe fruit at each other until the streets run red with tomato juice. The food fight lasts approximately an hour.
Afterwards, huge water cannons wash the evidence away, spraying guests, streets, everything left out and open, covered in splattered salsa-chunks and leaving all sparkling thanks to the acidic nature of the tomato.
Clothes are ruined. Hair is matted. Cameras are ruined. RUINED.
People wear goggles, protective gear, but still, the tomatoes are flung, catapulted, and zinged back and forth until the last of the overripe veggies are gone.
And then, the party really starts.
For those in and around Temecula, California, you’re in luck. No need to book a trans Atlantic flight, La Tomatina has come once again to Europa Village Winery. Tomato tossing in the vines.
Some notes from the pro-food fighters in Europe:
So, how did this crazy event start?
The first recorded Tomatina was in 1944-45, however the exact origins of the food fight are unclear, even to the residents of Bunol.
Some say it was a food fight among friends, a joke between restaurant owners with more than their fair share of tomatoes. Others say it had more political purposes.
Now, according to La Tomatina Tours, The festival is in honor of the town’s patron saints, Luis Bertran and the Mare de Deu dels Desemparats (Mother of God of the Defenseless), a title of the Virgin Mary. And at Europa Village Winery, proceeds from the event will go toward Rancho Damacitas children’s charity.
Date: Sunday, September 15th @ 4:00pm
The Europa Village Winery event includes:
• Massive Tomato Fight
• Great Food by Chef Dean
• Glass of Wine
• Spanish Guitar by Anthony Garcia
• Souvenir T-Shirt
Tickets: $49.00 / Societe Members: $45.00
For more information, visit: http://store.europavillage.com/events/La-Tomatina