Lifestyle & Belief

The recession goes splat: Spain’s tomato-throwing festival charges an entry fee (PHOTOS)


People on six trucks pelted the crowd with 130 tons of ripe tomatoes at the Tomatina festival on Aug. 28, 2013.


David Ramos

How much would you pay to throw a tomato at someone?

It’s a question officials in the Spanish town of Bunol pondered earlier this year when they decided to charge an entry fee for their annual tomato-throwing Tomatina festival.

It’s the first time the town has charged such a fee, but supplying the 286 pounds of tomatoes for the thousands of visitors and locals who throw them at each other – and mopping up tomato juice from the streets later – has become a burden for recession-hit Bunol.

The town has 4.1 million euros of debt, and the festival cost 140,000 euros this year.

Officials said that the tickets were also needed for crowd control.

"This is the first year we are charging for access to this popular festival due to the need to limit the crowd for safety reasons," Bunol town hall said in a statement, according to Agence France-Presse.

"We have had a problem for the past eight or 10 years: the Tomatina is not controlled, we don't know how many people are going to come," Bunol Mayor Joaquin Masmano Palmer told Spanish media, according to BBC News.

On Wednesday, tourists paid a minimum of 10 euros ($13) to participate in the festival and as much as 750 euros to stand on one of the six trucks that carries the tomatoes and throw them at the crowd below.

All the 15,000 entry tickets for visitors were sold out two weeks before the event. (Australian and Japanese visitors grabbed the most, buying more than a third of all tickets.) Some 5,000 free tickets were set aside for local residents.

Revelers seemed to feel as if they got their money’s worth. "I got pushed around, I got thrown around, I got tomatoes in my face in my eyes, everywhere. It was crazy," Teddy Leonard, 23, from Texas, told AFP.

"It is one of the most famous festivals in western Europe and it is safer than running with a bull," 22-year-old Brad Fisher from Sydney, said.

More from GlobalPost: Tomatina festival in Bunol, Spain paints the town red (PHOTOS)