BUÑOL, Spain – An eastern Spanish town was on Wednesday coated in slimy mashed tomatoes during the annual Tomatina festival, in which revelers smeared tons of the pulpy fruit over each other as part of a traditional mass food fight.
For the last 72 years, the town of Buñol has hosted the Tomatina festival, which sees thousands of people from across the globe take part in a battle where the only permitted ammunition is juicy tomatoes.
Grey skies, fresh breezes and the constant threat of rain did not scare away the approximately 22,000 people that threw, smashed and smeared 160 tons of tomatoes all over each other for 63 minutes.
As the revelers battled it out on the ground, and inside the massive dumpster trucks that carried the fruit, the town’s inhabitants flocked to their balconies to dump buckets of water on the crowds, a welcome relief from the heat and stickiness.
The fiesta began as a prank in 1945, when several locals began throwing tomatoes at each other during a parade, and was kept up every year as it grew into an eccentric celebration that is known worldwide.
Like the Sanfermines running of the bulls, the Tomatina has captured the imaginations of thousands of foreign nationals, who every year attend a festival considered unmissable by many intrepid backpackers.
But the celebration has seen a lot of changes over the years and dangerous behavior and practices have been banned outright, including overcrowding – some years saw up to 50,000 people present.
The current Tomatina is thought by many to be a newer version of the original mischief, adapted for the modern times, with watermelon helmets falling out of crowd favor and waterproof cameras on the rise, allowing revelers to broadcast every second of the mess to anyone with an internet connection.
This year’s edition was held amid heightened security measures and participants had to cross four security checkpoints before being allowed into the fight zone while authorities confiscated any selfie stick in sight.
It is now up to cleaning staff and local volunteers to clear the red mush off the streets of Buñol, though the scent of tomatoes may yet linger for a few more days.