Spain's tomato-throwing festival to cost

2012-09-27 22:33

Madrid - Tourists from as far away as Australia and India might have to pay next year to throw tomatoes at each other at Spain's famous La Tomatina festival.

The eastern Spanish town of Bunol - where the streets fill with red sludge at the annual bash - is studying an entry fee of €5 to limit attendance and improve safety, a town official said on Thursday.

The August festival attracts up to 50 000 revellers in minimal clothing who pelt each other with tonnes of tomatoes in Bunol, population 10 000. But local authorities would like to cut the number to half by charging visitors.

Town councillor Rafael Perez denied the plan to charge visitors to throw tomatoes at one other has to do with Spain's deep economic crisis, even though the cash-strapped regional Valencia government owes Bunol €3m.

"This idea came up for security reasons. It's a miracle we haven't had any serious accidents," Perez told Reuters.

"If it was just about money we would charge more."

Spain is at the heart of the euro zone debt crisis on concerns the government can't control its finances and those of its highly indebted regions, and public administrations have had to apply drastic austerity measures in social services such as health and education.

"This is one of the most popular festivals in Spain and we don't get any aid, it's all on us," Perez said. Bunol's total annual budget is €7.5m.

The town councillor said private tour operators make money selling travel packages of up to €300 to take people to the festival, without paying any fees to the town.

The enormous food fight began accidentally in 1945, when a group of young men were excluded from summer celebrations and protested by throwing tomatoes from a street stall.

The protest continued illegally every year until the town council accepted it as a festival in itself in 1957, and it became famous internationally after the 1990s.

The town council will make a decision about the new fees in November, after studying safety reports.

  • gerrit.vanpletzen - 2012-09-28 06:06

    Of course! Why should Aussies and Indians get the opportunity to go to Spain and throw tomatoes for free?

  • hilda.mulder.50 - 2012-09-28 07:46

    This is a travesty in any case. Think how many hungry people can be fed with a bowl of tomato soup

      erroltennyson.vanrenen - 2012-09-28 08:24

      I agree its a travesty. If my maths is correct they waste the equivalent of a quarter of a million cans of tomato's which is worth nearly R2 million which food could go a long way in a poverty stricken country. If they have so much to waste, why dont they export it to needy countries

      allcoveredinNinjas - 2012-09-28 08:31

      Why can't people in hungry countries grow tomatoes? or are they in perpetual famine? Sacrifice a world reknowned cultural event at the feet of others ineptitude and altruism .

      richard.bosmano - 2012-09-28 08:42

      Any tomatoes that go off in my house i throw in my garden beds. They grow like weeds in the wet season. I have a tiny garden and get to enjoy fresh tomatoes due to simple forethought. The poor can do the same.Bugger them. Then "The town councillor said private tour operators make money selling travel packages of up to €300 to take people to the festival, without paying any fees to the town." I bet the tour operators spend plenty of that money in this town,which gets VAT'd ,helps locals make money to pay their bills, so the town does benefit.

  • Lang Henning - 2012-09-28 08:01

    Of course it's not about the money. The thought never entered my mind... €5 will definitely stop people from Australia from coming all that way.

  • Jennifer - 2012-10-02 21:29

    i think it is a waste. Food is food. Period. But then again, Spain seems to have little regard for anything (animals included)or anyone.

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