The world's biggest food fight

The world's biggest food fight painted the Spanish town of Bunol red yesterday as 35'000 revellers pelted each other with 120 tonnes of ripe plum tomatoes in the annual “Tomatina” festival. In an hour-long frenzy, the small town's central street was transformed into a blur of flying fruit as Spaniards and visitors from around the globe hurled tomatoes and cavorted in the shin-deep pools of puree which give the “Tomatina” its name. “This is probably the craziest place on earth right now,” gasped Paul Vandergraaf, a 21-year-old American student from St.Louis, Missouri, as ketchup dripped from his dreadlocks. “I promised myself I would come here once. It's been amazing!” On the stroke of noon, a rocket gives the signal for a procession of six dump trucks each bearing 20 tonnes of tomatoes to inch through the adrenaline- and alcohol-fuelled crowds. The trucks tip huge piles of tomatoes -and a few hapless passengers -from their backs, and waves of cheering partygoers drive into the piles of fruit, flinging them in every direction. When no whole tomatoes remain, revellers scoop up handfuls of juice, pips and skin to hurl. Burly men wearing ballerinas' tutus flung fruit while green leprechauns picked pips from their beards amid the mayhem. “The Spanish sure know how to hold a party. Where else in the world can you still have a food fight in your twenties?” said Ben Turner, a 26-year-old from Melbourne who was “swimming” breast-stroke with a friend in a pool of tomato juice. Locals say the Tomatina, which caps a week-long festival in the eastern Spanish town some 375 km (230 miles) from Madrid, began as a spontaneous food fight between a group of young locals having lunch in the tiny “People's Square” in 1945. It has been repeated every year since, aside from a brief break during the dictatorship of General Francisco Franco after residents pelted a government official with tomatoes. But its scale has ballooned since television discovered the fiesta in the early 1980s and brought it worldwide attention. For many Spaniards, the Tomatina was a welcome break from tensions surrounding the recent banning of Basque political party Batasuna. While a handful of the crowd chanted slogans against Basque separatism, many more sang invitations for blonde-haired female visitors to remove their clothing. “Its great to be here. I feel really saucy! ... It was insane. Viva Tomatina!” said Jessica Clarke from New York, covered in red slime.