World's Messiest Food Festivals Slide Show
August 12, 2011
Wikimedia Commons/Graham McLellan
La Tomatina — Buñol, Spain
Wikimedia Commons/Graham McLellan
Every year, on the last Wednesday of August, the small Spanish town of Buñol sees an influx of 20,000—40,000 tourists who come to participate in one of the world’s largest, messiest food fights: La Tomatina. After one dedicated soul makes it to the top of a two-story greased pole in order to drop down a ham (don’t ask, we don’t know), a gun fires and all the tens of thousands of participants lunge for the loads of tomatoes that are trucked in and everyone and everything in sight is pummeled for an hour by a reported 125 tons of squashed tomatoes.
Italy’s Orange Battle — Ivrea, Italy
40 days before Lent, the little town of Ivrea, north of Turin in Italy, holds a symbolic rehashing of an insurrection against the Holy Roman Empire that occurred in 1194. So what do they do? Why, they don medieval costumes and take to the streets to hurl oranges at one another, of course. This re-enactment always ends with the common folks coming out sticky but victorious. But everyone who plays really wins since filling a town’s streets with enough oranges to come up to your knees equals fun no matter how you squeeze it.
West Virginia Roadkill Cook-Off — Marlinton, West Virginia
Located along West Virginia’s eastern border, Pocahontas County is home to some of the most breathtaking natural beauty in America and, dare we say it, even the world. And there are many ways to experience this beauty firsthand: skiing, hikes, canoeing, eating squirrel gravy… SCREECH! Yes, you heard right. The proud Pocahontas County (Pokey, to natives) residents have embraced the stereotypes by adding to their Autumn Harvest Festival a Roadkill Cook-Off competition where the main ingredient must include a critter commonly found on the side of the road. Critters include, but are not limited to: groundhog, opossum, deer, rabbit, squirrel, and snake.
Greece’s Clean Monday Flour War — Galaxidi, Greece
The first day of Orthodox Lent, known as Clean Monday, doesn’t quite live up to its moniker in Galaxidi, Greece, where revelers celebrate the holiday by dirtying it up. With handfuls of dyed flour, residents and visitors pelt each other in what has come to be known as the Flour War. Right around Fat Tuesday, the celebration has parallels with Mardi Gras, so might we suggest baking a king cake?
Shepherds’ Shemozzle — Hunterville, New Zealand
Shemozzle: Yiddish for a confused situation. Ex: “I haven’t seen a shemozzle like this since cousin David’s shiksa girlfriend showed up to Yom Kippur with a menorah and a ham.”
But in New Zealand? There, the word refers to a zany obstacle course and most famously the Shepherds' Shemozzle in the town of Hunterville during its Huntaway Festival. Here, participants and their dog companions sloppily run a cross country course while eating strange foods like raw eggs, sheep’s eye and cream, and huhu bugs with cold cooking oil.
Huhu bug: New Zealand’s largest native beetle, known to bite when threatened. Ex: “I haven’t seen a shemozzle like this since baby Ahu tried to eat a huhu and it bit him and gave him a booboo. Little Blighter!"
Thailand’s Water Fight
In Thailand, the locals celebrate the start of the Thai New Year by taking to the streets for a week of water-soaked battles where almost no one is safe from water balloons, the firing of water pistols, and the simple but effective bucket dumped overhead. During Songkran — what natives call the festival — pedestrians are a favorite target, which happens to coincide with Thailand’s hottest season. This means walking down the searing streets doesn’t have to be so bad… as long you don’t mind getting cool via a water balloon hurled at you by a stranger.
Tomato Fight of Colombia — Sutamarchan, Colombia
Using 15 tons of less-than-choice specimens from the town’s most important crop, residents of Sutamarchan, Colombia make their smaller version of Spain’s La Tomatina just as fun by spreading it over three days of tomato-launching antics that the kids can get involved in, too.
Batalla del Vino — Halo, Spain
Violet! You’re turning violet, Violet! What began as a real, Medieval dispute over a mountain range between neighboring towns has since evolved into Batalla del Vino, a raucous celebration of wine and hospitality in the Rioja region of Spain. On St. Pedro’s Day, June 29th, locals and visitors alike descend on Halo wearing all white clothes and a red bandana in order to deluge each other with gallon after gallon of the area’s famous red wine until everyone is tipsy and has turned a succulent shade of purple.
Great Fruitcake Toss — Manitou Springs, Colorado
After the Christmas merriment comes to an end, the good people of Manitou, Colorado like to keep the celebrations going. Every first Saturday of January, the town holds the Great Fruitcake Toss to see who can throw, catapult, shoot, or generally heave a fruitcake the farthest. Prizes go to competitors in multiple events, which include tossing, launching, and hurling.
US Chicken Wing Eating Contest — Buffalo, NY
When thinking of messy foods, Buffalo wings are top among them. They’re hot, greasy, saucy, slimy, yet delicious, things that get all over your face and hands and clothes on a regular trip to your favorite wing joint. But imagine the mess when you’ve got a do-or-die objective of cramming as many of the messy things down your throat as possible?! Attend the National Buffalo Wing Festival in Buffalo, New York and find out. With an annual attendance of around 70,000 people, the festival also offers sauce making competitions, amateur eating competitions, various barbecue competitions, and the “Ridiculously Hot Wing Eating Competition.” Word of advice if you decide to attend: pack some Pepto-Bismol.