If you remember the Muppets growing up, you probably remember the (sadly not so) comedic Fozzie Bear doing his monologue on stage, laughing at his own jokes with his trademarked “waka waka waka!” and subsequently being pelted with tomatoes from every corner of the auditorium.
If these memories of your youth ever gave you the urge to chuck an over-ripe tomato at someone, well you’re in luck! On the last Wednesday of every August, in the town of Bunol, Spain, some 30,000 people gather to engage in the world’s largest food fight. More than 100 metric tons of tomatoes are thrown on this day, giving this otherwise quaint town of just 9,000 inhabitants a slimy, red-and-green bath.
While speculation abounds, in reality nobody is quite sure exactly how this festival, which first took place in the mid-1940s, came to be. Popular thought is that disgruntled residents attacked the local civic leaders with tomatoes during a town celebration. But other legends have also been told: a humble beginning as a food fight among friends, the spontaneous aftermath of an accidental lorry spillage, a class war among children, spectators of a carnival parade volleying tomatoes amongst each other across the parade route, and finally the Fozzie theory—a practical joke on a bad musician. Regardless of the origin, however, we do know that like the slimy residue participants end the day covered in, the idea stuck. It was, however, banned under the rule of Francisco Franco for not being a religious holiday, but was restored in the 1970s after he was ousted from power.
As the town’s population is more than quadrupled on this day, accommodations are limited—the majority of visitors commute from Valencia about 40km away. Local shopkeepers have managed to stay one step ahead of the game as well, covering their storefronts with huge plastic sheets to protect from the day’s carnage.
Enjoy a few photos of last year’s edition below, courtesy of AP/Alberto Saiz: