July 4, 2009

Popular summer festivals in Spain

La Tomatina Festival

This is, by far, might be the most popular, and the funniest and most dirty (as in getting dirty during the festival’s activities) festivals in Spain. If not in the whole Europe. Many tourists looking for a bit of extra adventure and a bit of more local taste of celebrative zeal, come to Valencia from around the world to take part in La Tomatina, the tomato fight festival – a festival where the excess of tomato harvest is being utilized by all.

(Spain, La Tomatina Festival. Photo by Aaron Corey/flickr)

La Tomatina Festival is held on the last Wednesday of August each year in the town of Buñol in the Valencia region of Spain. Tens of thousands of participants come from all over the world to fight in a brutal battle where more than one hundred metric tons of over-ripe tomatoes are thrown in the streets.

The week-long festival features music, parades, dancing, and fireworks. On the night before the tomato fight, participants of the festival compete in a paella cooking contest. It is tradition for the women to wear all white and the men to wear no shirts. This festival started on a small scale in 1945, but wasn't officially recognized until 1952.

Approximately 20,000–50,000 tourists come to the tomato fight, including local Buñol's population of more than 9,000 residents. Since the town is small, it is unable to accommodate every single visitor during the festival, so many people opt to stay in Valencia or in nearby neighborhoods and use a bus or a train to commute to Buñol, about 38 km (about 24 miles) outside the city.

Since this is a rather messy festival, all the residences and service keepers around the town ensure that they are fully prepared, or plastic covered, from tomatoes. At around 10 a.m., the first event of the Tomatina begins. The first feat is for the crowd to figure out how to get someone to climb up a greased pole with a ham at the top. While this is happening, the group works up a frenzy singing and dancing while being showered from hoses. Once someone is able to release the ham from the pole, several trucks haul the bounty of tomatoes into the center of the town, Plaza del Pueblo. The tomatoes come from Extremadura, where they are less expensive and are grown specifically for the festival as they are not of good taste for consumption. The signal for the beginning of the fight is firing of water cannons, and the chaos begins.

Once the actual tomato battles begin, it is then every man for himself. Those who partake in this event are strongly encouraged to wear protective safety goggles and gloves, and they must follow certain safety rules not to hurt the others. What happens after the festival, only the cleaning people of the city know – one thing for sure, the city authorities make sure the tomato pulps are all flushed off the streets and buildings.

Festival Internacional de Benicàssim

Another popular Spanish summer festival is the Benicassim Festival, held on the Mediterranean beach and is all about music from around the world. Ones of the best global alternative rock, indie rock, pop and electronica musicians come to the four-day festival, July 16-19.

However, the festival starts way earlier, and ends way later, as this free spirit festivals usually involves a free spirit camping in and around the area for nine days.

This annual music festival is only 14 years old, but it already draws thousands of visitors and music fans from around the world to its “camp ground”, located in the port town of Benicasim, Spain. Besides various music types, this festival also offers short films, theatre, fashion and art.

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