Spain's tomato food fight fiesta returns after pandemic

·2-min read

Thousands of revellers splattered each other with tomatoes on Wednesday in the Spanish town of Bunol celebrating the return of the annual "Tomatina" food fight after a two-year absence due to the Covid pandemic.

A convoy of six trucks carrying 130 tonnes of ripe tomatoes rolled through the eastern town's narrow streets, as teams on board distributed the load among the baying crowd for an hour-long frenzy.

The festival -- billed as "the world's biggest food fight" -- has become a major draw for foreigners, in particular from Australia, Britain, Japan and the United States.

But this year only 15,000 of the 20,000 available tickets sold as fewer people from Asia made the trip due to lingering Covid-19 travel restrictions, local officials said.

The bang of fireworks set off the free-for-all at noon and within minutes the streets were bathed in red goo.

Revellers, some wearing goggles to protect their eyes, bent down to pick up tomatoes from the ground to throw while others lay in the pulp.

"We have come to the 'Tomatina' because it's the craziest thing we have seen here," Patricio, a tourist from Mexico, told local television station A Punt.

The town of around 9,500 people has since 2013 charged a participation fee to control the growing numbers who had flocked to the festival last held in 2019 before Covid curbs.

"We were really eager to resume our beloved party, to once again be able to throw tomatoes at each other and release all the adrenaline we built up these last two years," said Maria Valles, Bunol's town councillor for tourism.

The food fight is followed by festivities including concerts and contests which last into the night.

The "Tomatina" started in 1945 when locals brawling in the street at a folk festival grabbed tomatoes from a grocer’s stall and let loose.

In 2002 Spain's tourism secretary named the event a "festivity of international tourist interest" because of its popularity.

The "Tomatina" has inspired similar celebrations in Colombia, Costa Rica, Chile and the United States.

vid-al/ds/bp