Imagine some 40,000 men and women swimming in a sea of pasta sauce and you can begin to picture what it's like to attend the Tomatina Festival, the world's largest tomato fight.

One of the highlights of Spain's festival season, the popular Tomatina is certainly its messiest. On the last Wednesday of August each year, tens of thousands of revelers pack into the Plaza Mayor square in Bunol, just west of Valencia, with shirts off and goggles on, prepared for the stinging juice of the acidic fruit.

Organizers offload five truckloads carrying some 120 tons of tomatoes into the square, and within minutes, it's filled with chunky red bits and slippery seeds. When the battle is complete, a cleanup crew hoses down the streets and walls while revelers rinse the pasty red muck off their bodies in portable showers nearby.

The annual event, which began with a humble food fight in the mid-1940s, pumps about 300,000 euros ($380,000) into the local economy, a welcome boost for a country in the throes of recession that's suffering from a jobless rate of nearly 25 percent. Tourists flock to the town from as far away as Australia and Japan for a chance to participate in the signature Spanish celebration, which is, perhaps, second in popularity only to the San Fermin Festival and the Running of the Bulls in Pamplona.

Have a look at what happened at the 2012 Tomatina Festival below: