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Daily Destination: Buñol, Spain

Compass

Every year, visitors and locals in Buñol, Spain, gather on the last Wednesday of every August to paint the town red. Literally. With tomatoes.

During La Tomatina, the town’s annual tomato-throwing festival, people of all ages and from many countries splatter each other (and Buñol) with so much tomato pulp that puddles of it form in the streets and buildings are covered with red, seedy streaks.

The event generated extra news this year, because the town — hit hard by recession, like many in Spain — decided to charge admission for the first time. Not only did the town need the money to pay for security and safety workers, it wanted to limit the number of participants, who’d been getting a bit out of hand in recent years.

Even without the admission charges, the event is a major economic boost for the small town about 25 miles west of Valencia, near Spain’s east coast. During the tomato-throwing festival, Buñol’s population swells from 9,000 to about 30,000.

La Tomatina reportedly began in the 1940s, when a children’s party erupted into a food fight. Now, tons of tomatoes are trucked in each year for the event.

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