International revelers gathered Wednesday in the tiny Valencian town of Buñol on the east coast of Spain to play in tomato juice. La Tomatina, the world’s largest tomato-throwing festival, turned 71 this year.
The tradition in the quaint Spanish town of 10,000 is held on the last Wednesday in August. According to folk history, the annual event started when two boys began tussling during a parade, using tomatoes from a vegetable stand to attack each other. Others claim the first tomatoes were thrown as part of an anti-government protest.
Critics complain the event wastes food and creates a big mess. But in Spain, it's all about having fun. The celebration was declared an official festival in 2002 by the Spanish Department of Tourism.
The annual party involves around 150,000 tomatoes. To start, a person climbs up a greasy pole in the town square and retrieves a ham at the top. Then the throwing kicks off for exactly one hour. Some were swimming goggles to protect their eyes, the Associated Press reported.
"Within moments I am enveloped by a riot of semi-clad bodies covered head to toe in acidic, vitamin C rich, red gunge. It is hard to contain my excitement as I crush handfuls of tomatoes to lob at the person next to me (not before checking that they are smaller and weaker -- I don't want to aggravate the local bruiser). Consumed by the mass of men and women running riot and ripping off shirts, I fling caution to the wind and lunge after my next victim. The smell is overpowering, and I am soon wondering if I can ever look at a pizza the same again," Frommer's wrote.
Since 2013, the town has charged $12 to join in. Only about 22,000 people are allowed to attend for safety reasons.