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8 famously messy festivals

By: Josh Lew on Nov. 18, 2013, 2:52 p.m.
People at the La Tomatina festival in 2013

Photo: David Ramos/Getty Images

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La Tomatina

During the final week of August, one of the world's biggest food fights, La Tomatina, takes place in the town of Buñol in the Spanish province of Valencia. During La Tomatina, people gather in the center of town and toss thousands of ripe tomatoes at one another. This event is popular with tourists as well as locals, so each year, the streets are packed. Every participant is stained completely red, and by the end of the battle, the soupy "tomato puree" is ankle deep on the street.

The festivities start each year when a greased pole with a large ham perched on top is placed in the center of the main street. People try to climb to the top of the pole and remove the ham. Once someone is successful at bringing the meat to the ground, the first tomatoes are hurled and all hell breaks loose on the streets of Buñol. After the fray, fire trucks are on hand to wash both streets and participants with their hoses. Because of the high acidity of the tomatoes, the streets are actually cleaner after they have been sprayed than they were before the event started. A number of copycat festivals are held around the world, but this Valencian food fight is the original.