Thousands of people from around the world converged on Buol, a town in eastern Spain, on Wednesday for the world famous “Tomatina” tomato battle despite rain, lightning and thunder.
A total of 15,000 people from 60 countries, including Australia, the United States and Japan, joined Spaniards in the famous food fight, with organizers charging visitors an entry fee of 10 euros (13) for the first time.
Buol’s 5,000 residents did not have to pay the fee to take part in the huge food fight.
An entry fee is being charged this year to keep the number of participants, who often exceeded 50,000 in past years, to a more manageable 20,000, organizers said.
The combatants hurled 130,000 kilos (more than 143 tons) of tomatoes at each other, literally painting the town red.
The weather forecast called for heavy rain, thunder and lightning, but visitors flocked to the Tomatina anyway, with many wearing old clothes and swim goggles to protect their eyes.
The tomato fight ended at 11:45 a.m., when clean-up crews moved into the streets closed off for the festival.
The Tomatina, declared a Festival of International Tourist Interest in 2002, drew hundreds of members of the media to Buol, putting the town in Valencia province in the spotlight for a day.
Imitators have popped up in other parts of the world, including the “Tomato Royale,” an event held last Saturday in Petersburg, Virginia, that drew about 5,000 people.
The Spanish festival started in 1945 as a prank orchestrated by several friends who threw tomatoes during a parade.
Buol’s government took over the festival in 1980, making it an official event. EFE