Bunol: Some 20,000 revellers pelted each other with tonnes of squishy tomatoes in Spain’s annual “Tomatina” food fight yesterday -- but this year they had to pay to get sticky.
Drenched in red juice with seeds and pulp in their hair, festival-goers hurled tomato gloop at one another and bathed in a deep layer of mush left in the street — 130 tonnes of tomatoes overall.
“I got pushed around, I got thrown around, I got tomatoes in my face in my eyes, everywhere. It was crazy,” said Teddy Leonard, 23, from Texas.
Defying sheets of rain and stormy skies, masses from around the world — led by Australians, Japanese and Britons — joined battle in the Plaza Mayor square of Bunol, eastern Spain.
Some people dressed as tomatoes and many wore shower caps and goggles to protect their eyes from the acidic juice of the tomatoes, which are squashed before being hurled at the crowd from the backs of lorries.
Plastic covers were hung to shield buildings along the 400-metre course during the hour-long frenzy, while unprotected walls got splattered with red globs.
This year, for the first time, participants paid a minimum of €10 ($13). The price rose to €750 to get up on one of the six trucks bringing in the tomatoes and hurl them onto the crowd below.
Organisers this year cut the number of participants by half, citing safety concerns.
Bunol’s Mayor Joaquin Masmano Palmer also admitted that the food fight, which has cost €140,000 to stage this year, represents a heavy burden for a town with a debt of €4.1m.
For the first time, a private company was charged with selling tickets for the Tomatina, sparking concern that recession-hit Spain’s town festivals may be on the path to privatisation.
All the 15,000 entry tickets were sold out more than two weeks before the festival, SpainTastic said. A further 5,000 free tickets were set aside for Bunol residents.