Spain’s ‘Tomatina’ battle returns after pandemic hiatus

BUNOL, Spain (AP) — People from around the world pasted each other with tomatoes Wednesday as Spain’s famous “Tomatina” street tomato fight took place once again Wednesday following a two-year suspension because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Workers on trucks unloaded 130 tons of over-ripe tomatoes along the main street of the eastern town of Bunol for participants to throw, leaving the area drenched in red pulp.

Up to 20,000 people were to take part in the festival, paying 12 euros ($12) a ticket for the privilege. The town’s streets are hosed down and the revelers showered off within minutes of the hour-long noon battle ending.

The event, held on the last Wednesday of August, was inspired by a food fight between local children in 1945 in the town, located in a tomato-producing region.

Media attention in the 1980s turned it into a national and international event, drawing participants from every corner of the world.

Local officials said they expected fewer foreign visitors this year mainly because of continuing fears over COVID-19 in Asian countries.

Participants don swimming goggles to protect their eyes while their clothes, typically T-shirts and shorts, are left covered in pulp.

Besides being the first battle since before the pandemic started in 2020 in Spain, this year’s celebration had the added incentive of being the event’s 75th anniversary and 20 years since the festival was declared by Spain as an international tourism attraction.

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