The cobbled streets of the small town in eastern Spain ran red with juicy pulp. Tomato skins slipped down the ruby-stained bodies of tightly-packed revelers, who roared joyfully as they pelted each other with the ripe fruit. Horns blared and adults howled like giddy children, as the annual 'Tomatina' fight swept – and squished and splattered – across the town.
The scene may sound strange to an outsider, but for residents of Buñol, Spain, the 'Tomatina' festival is a beloved, long-standing tradition locals and visitors alike anticipate at the end of every August. This year the celebration fell on Wednesday, August 30.
The celebration traces its roots – all the way down the vine – back to 1945, when legend has it a spontaneous food fight among local children sparked a custom that now attracts an international crowd.
Buñol is home to only about 9,000 people, but every year on the last week in August, anywhere from 30,000 to 50,000 tourists descend upon the city to wield tomatoes like snowballs. Only 20,000 lucky people get to take part for 12 U.S.D. per participant.
For just one hour the town transforms into a clamor of rouged bodies and pelting produce, and the streets are streaming with rivulets of sauce, with some revelers slipping on their bellies like sleds across the stones.
Shop facades were veiled with long plastic covers, and many pulp-painted merrymakers donned goggles to protect their eyes from the splash.
The tomato-producing region was ripe for the tradition: 160 tons of tomatoes were offloaded from trucks into the crowds, dispensing ammunition that may have otherwise been the municipality's main export.
But the celebration is good for the local economy. Between accommodations, food, and the event itself, an estimated 300,000 euros go back to Buñol.
This year, security was increased for the event, and 700 agents were deployed at the fiesta: a somber reminder of the recent Barcelona attacks standing sentry outside the otherwise festive gathering.
But no traces of melancholy could be spotted in the streets. The event could barely have even been called a fight. Faces, almost entirely obscured by red, were all smiles.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.