LA TOMATINA: THE FESTIVAL OF TOMATOES

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People in various parts of the world celebrate various crazy and fun festivals unique to them; some for fun and entertainment, some in a religious sense and some as socio-political movements. No matter what, lot of people love celebrating these festivals, take part in the activities and have some new experience. ‘La Tomatina’, the tomato festival in Spain is one such crazy festival held every year with the participation of thousands of people and with tons of tomatoes.

The tomato festival

La Tomatina is basically a children’s food fight with tomatoes. It is held on the last Wednesday of every August, in the Valencian town of Buñol, in the east of Spain 30 kilometres from the Mediterranean. A large number of tourists as well as locals come to this city in the summer to take part in this event. Local authorities mention that the maximum capacity of the town, which is 22, 000 people, is reached almost every year during the celebrations of La Tomatina.

Origin

The first tomato fight or La Tomatina reports from 1945 and in fact, it has been a mistake. In August, 1945 a group of youngsters gathered around in the town square to take part in a Giants and Big-Heads figures parade with musicians. As the parade continued with festivities, one Big-head figure’s head fell down because of the energetic movements of the youngsters. The youth who fell on the ground broke into a fit of rage and started to hit everything on his way, awakening a wave of fighting.  A vegetable stall which was nearby fell victim of this outrage and the people started to pelt each other with the tomatoes until the local security officers interfered and quelled the fights.

In the following year, another group of young boys came to the same place and started a pre-planned quarrel with the intention of having fun. They had brought tomatoes of their own from homes. The tomato fight went on for a while till the local forces came and stopped it. Nevertheless, the next year people gathered in thousands to the same place and started the tomato fight, so that even the local forces couldn’t prevent them from celebrating la Tomatina. Since then, the people gather to the town of Buñol and celebrate the fun festival of tomato fighting.

The craze begins

“At 11 o’clock a shot is fired to announce the start of the fight and from the end of the street, the first truckload of ‘ammunition’ appears, sounding its horn. Those riding on board the truck throw the first tomatoes. Finally, the vehicle stops and unloads its cargo, and the crowd rushes forward to stock up on ‘bullets’. Within a few seconds, everything turns red. Trucks loaded with tomatoes arrive one after another, until a second shot is fired signalling the end of the battle” reports the Spain’s official tourism website.

Usually it is said that the festival starts at 12.00 O’ clock and ends at 1.00p.m., as the festival ends, fire trucks come along the way with hoses shooting water, to wash away the remaining tomato parts.

By Induwara Athapattu