Don’t forget to bring your goggles.
Credit: Getty Images/Lonely Planet Images

Warm up your throwing arm and pack your stain-resistant poncho, because Spain’s annual food fight is about to get underway: La Tomatina kicks off in the city of Buñol on August 26. You won’t want to miss this epic tomato-tossing festival.

According to local lore, the festival started back in 1945 when a few Buñol boys started playfully hurling over-ripe tomatoes at their friends. From those humble origins, the festival has blossomed into an annual tomato-throwing free-for-all with over 45,000 people signing up to chuck tomatoes at each other in a lycopene-rich melee that takes over the normally bucolic Valencian town each year.

The partying typically starts the night before with concerts by traditional Spanish bands and lots of eating. The next day the food fight starts. Goggles-wearing warriors grab handfuls of tomatoes and chuck them at their enemies, friends, and complete strangers alike. The tomato-tossing continues for an hour before the crowd is sent home to shower the almost-gazpacho off their faces. The cleanup takes hours with crews spraying the streets down.

Usually an estimated 120,000 pounds of tomatoes are shipped into the city for the festival, but this year, to celebrate La Tomatina’s 70th anniversary, the town plans to bring in more tomatoes than ever: a record 300,00 pounds (that’s 150 tons) of over-ripe tomatoes primed for throwing.

To mark the anniversary, festival organizers are also establishing the first-ever Tomatina Race, during which runners will have to dash through Buñol’s idyllic streets and make their way through tomato-made obstacles—all while being pelted in the face with soon-to-be ketchup.

If that sounds like your cup of tomato-flavored tea, there are a few rules to follow: Don’t wear flip flops as you’ll lose them when the streets turn into tomato sauce, keep your shirt on, and, squash the tomato before pelting it in someone’s face. It’s only polite.

If you start your training at La Tomatina, you’ll be fully prepared for battle at next year’s Battle of the Oranges in Ivrea, Italy.

Can’t make the festival? There’s an app for that. An ingenious company has created a Tomatina Defense game where you protect the city from a tomato invasion.