Nobody remembers for definite the origins of this grand-scale food fight, but there are many suggestions ranging from a local food fight amongst friends, to residents pelting the council as part of a political protest, to a joke when a lorry shed its load of tomatoes. Regardless of how it began, it has developed into such a popular event that these days participation is strictly ticket-only.
It was banned for a period under General Franco, and participation was punishable, but the festivities were reinstated in the 1970s at the end of his regime.
The event begins at about 10am when someone has to climb up a tall greased pole to claim a ham which has been secured at the top. In theory the main event doesn’t start until this has been achieved. In practise, no matter what, it begins at about 11am with the firing of a water cannon to signal the start of the fight. To reduce the possibility of injuries there are some rules such as crushing the tomatoes before throwing them. By the time the water cannon is fired for the second time, exactly one hour later, to signal the end of the fight, around 150,000 tomatoes will have been thrown. They are grown in Extremadura especially for this annual event.
The town itself is cleaned by fire trucks hosing down the streets. Participants have to rely on local residents hosing them down, or go down to the river to clean themselves up.