La Tomatina 2018

by Kshaunish Jaini

Often called the world’s biggest food fight, the La Tomatina festival of Spain has been documented and celebrated in countless film sequences and other forms of pop culture. This is no surprise, because where else will you find the madness of being one of 40,000 people indiscriminately hurling tonnes of ripe tomatoes on each other. La Tomatina is held each year in the Spanish town of Bunol, which lies about 38 kilometers from the city of Valencia. Bunol is located only 30 kilometers from the Spanish mediterranean coast, and blessed with warm sunshine and balmy climate.

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The first documented La Tomatina was a result of a friendly squabble in the town square during the annual parade celebrations on the last Wednesday of August 1945. The perpetrators started hurling tomatoes from the nearby vegetable market at each other as the quarrel heated up. The authorities soon got the situation in control, but a new tradition was born. For the first few years of its existence, La Tomatina wasn’t exactly legal, and participants would often be arrested as a result. It was only after 1957, when the crowd organized a tomato funeral in protest, complete with a giant tomato sitting in a coffin, that La Tomatina was finally allowed to become an official part of the annual parade celebrations.

La Tomatina festival in Spain

A shot from La Tomatina festival in Spain. Photo by Erkin

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What Happens at La Tomatina

According to tradition, La Tomatina is usually organized on the last Wednesday of August every year. In 2018, La Tomatina will be organized on the 28th August. On this day, many trucks filled with fresh ripe tomatoes from the neighbouring town of Extremadura are brought into the town square. With all the participants gathered around the Plaza de Pueblo, a blast from the water cannons signals the start of the mayhem disguised as food fight - for the next hour, it’s every man for themselves. Soon the town square is full of mushy tomato pulp. At the end of the hour, a starter’s pistol signals the end of the festival, after which fire trucks hose down the streets to clean them up. The acidic content in the tomatoes helps clean the streets better. Participants can wash themselves off in the nearby Bunol river, or with the help of the friendly locals.

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How to Get to La Tomatina

The closest city to Bunol is Valencia, located in the eastern part of Spain. Flights to Valencia are operative from many major European cities. On the other hand, you can also make the event into a road trip, in order to cover other Spanish towns along the way.

La Tomatina festival in Spain

A shot from the Spainsh La Tomatina festival. Photo by MrT

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Rules for La Tomatina

There are some basic rules that the participants must follow in order to take part in La Tomatina. They are:

  1. Do not throw bottles or hard objects
  2. Squash the tomatoes before hurling them in order to avoid seriously hurting others
  3. Do not tear or throw tshirts
  4. Keep safe distance from the trucks
  5. No tomatoes to be hurled after the second pistol shot signal
  6. Always follow the security instructions

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Things to Keep in Mind at La Tomatina

  1. Due to overwhelming popularity, the festival organizers have come up with a ticketing system since 2013 that limits the number of participants to 20,000. Therefore if you are planning to attend La Tomatina, book your tickets soon.
  2. Make sure you have planned ahead in terms of accommodation. Bunol is a small town with a population of 9,000, and everything is booked during La Tomatina.
  3. During the festival, wear old clothes and shoes that you wouldn’t mind throwing afterwards. Since the ground tends to get squishy and slippery, flip flops aren’t a great option.
  4. La Tomatina festival

    Photo by Reno

  5. If you are planning to take pictures, make sure you have a waterproof camera cover.
  6. Do not miss the other festivities that take place along with La Tomatina. For example, La Palojabon is a game where participants try to climb a long greased pole with spanish ham tied on the top, which happens concurrently with La Tomatina.
  7. Respect the town and its residents. Stay safe and try to enjoy the festivities as much as you can.
  8. La Tomatina is accompanied by countless parties around the town, including a few on the mediterranean coast. Make your itinerary after carefully scrutinizing where you would like to spend time.

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