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Spain’s Tomato War Begins Again

August 25, 1999

BUNYOL, Spain (AP) _ Drenching themselves in thick red mush, thousands of revelers pelted each other with 140 tons of ripe tomatoes on Wednesday in Spain’s sloppiest summer festival.

The warriors were given free wine before the battle to get them in the mood, as well as safety goggles, masks and helmets to protect them from the juicy ordnance. Seven tomato-laden trucks disgorged the day’s supply of red ammunition and it was everyone for themselves.

Residents of Calle San Luis, the street where the battle was fought, covered buildings with plastic sheets to keep them clean.

Participants screamed for spectators ensconced in balconies to shower them with buckets of water. Onlookers were only too happy to oblige.

Authorities in Bunyol, 25 miles north of Valencia on Spain’s east coast, said the decades-old tradition this year drew more than 30,000 people, some of them from as far away as Japan and Argentina.

Mayor Minerva Gomez said the town bought 100 tons from a farm cooperative, which threw in another 40 for good measure, free of charge.

Gomez said it takes about three hours to hose down the town and leave it good as new. ``Not a trace of tomato, anywhere,″ she told Europa Press.

City officials say it’s not clear how far back the festival goes, although it’s been a yearly event since the 1940s and became city-sponsored in 1979.

The food fight has become one of Spain’s most popular summer festivals.

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