TOMATINA
Ramon Espinosa  /  AP
Unidentified people lie in a river of tomato juice Wednesday at the end of the Tomatina tomato throwing festival in Bunol, eastern Spain.
updated 8/25/2004 10:32:25 PM ET 2004-08-26T02:32:25

Knee-deep in red mush, tens of thousands of revelers pelted each other with tons of ripe tomatoes Wednesday in Spain’s messiest summer party.

Police in the eastern village of Bunol — population 10,000 — said some 36,000 people waged the hour-long food fight, bathing themselves, the walls and streets with 140 tons of fruit projectiles.

Some warriors were shown on television literally swimming in the fresh tomato puree, only their heads peeking out of the sea of red pulp.

It all started with a pistol shot at high noon, after which six trucks unloaded fruit ammunition for Spaniards and tourists from as far away as Japan who had gathered for two hours to paste each other in the decades-old battle called “La Tomatina.”

Residents preferring to watch from balconies — but get their licks in, too — poured water on the crowd.

Town hall set up 500 makeshift showers for the revelers to clean up. Others bathed in a river.

The festival, held every year on the last Wednesday of August, is said to have started in the 1940s when a clutch of youths began throwing their lunch at each other one day in a downtown square.

They met again the following year, this time pelting passers-by as well and giving birth to the now legendary food fight.

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Video: Tomato war!

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