Image: La Tomatina food festival
Juanjo Valverde
La Tomatina food festival in Buñol, Spain, is the world's largest food fight, with tens of thousands of people throwing more than 250,000 pounds of overripe tomatoes at one another.
updated 8/21/2011 1:18:53 PM ET 2011-08-21T17:18:53

From launching tomatoes to heaving tunas, people love to throw food, and some of the most spirited annual events offer an excuse to do so.

Slideshow: World’s weirdest food festivals

Rumored to have originated as a local brawl (possibly an attack on city council members by disgruntled townspeople), La Tomatina in Buñol, Spain, is the world's largest food fight. In late August, the event attracts some 45,000 people who throw more than 250,000 pounds of overripe tomatoes at one another. “Participants have a wonderful time throwing tomatoes at anything that moves,” according to the Tourist Office of Spain.

A horn signals the start of the event, but only after an agile attendee manages to climb a greased pole and reach a dangling leg of jamón. The free-for-all continues for an hour and ends when another horn is sounded. There are few guidelines, but participants do squash tomatoes before throwing them (it hurts less), and many wear masks (tomatoes can make eyes itch).

Another bizarre food activity takes place at the Tunarama Festival in Port Lincoln, Australia. Going on its 50th year, the festival’s main attraction is the World Champion Tuna Toss Competition, where contestants sling 20-pound tunas. The record of approximately 40 yards was set in 1998 by a pro: former Olympic hammer thrower Sean Carlin.

Instead of throwing food, visitors to the Cheese Curd Festival in Ellsworth, Wis., prefer to admire it. In celebration of the century-old Ellsworth Cooperative Creamery, the self-proclaimed "Cheese Curd Capital" hosts an annual cheese-curd-eating contest and cheese-carving competition. One recent sculpture depicted a lion eating ice cream.

The food is unusual at BugFest, held by the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences in Raleigh. Visitors not only cheer on bugs at the Roach Race 5000, but they also dare each other to eat insect dishes prepared by local chefs. BugFest’s snacks include cricket cornbread with cricket jalapeño butter, a “critter fritter” served with toasted cricket and chile mole sauce and a Thai herb salad with roasted giant mealworms. For dessert: frozen chocolate-covered crickets.

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