Every August, some 20,000 tourists flock to the town of Bunol (in the Valencia region of Spain) to hurl large, red squishy tomatoes at one another. La Tomatina – the world’s largest vegetable fight – is a full blown fiesta and in the week building up to the battle, Bunol is filled with fireworks, food, street parades and parties. However the undisputed highlight of the festival is the tomato fight which takes place between 11am and 1pm on the last Wednesday in August. It’s estimated that approximately 90,000 pounds of tomatoes are pelted at people, so expect to see streets awash in seeds, pulp and tomato guts! After the food fight, revellers get to hose themselves down in one of the public showers that are especially constructed for the annual event.
Sounds crazy, huh? But believe it or not La Tomatina is tame compared to some of the weird and wacky festivals that are out there. CD Traveller selects five of the most bizarre and downright unusual festivals you can find around the world…
Mobile Phone Throwing World Championships
What: Want to vent some of the frustration (batteries dying, texts disappearing into cyber space etc) caused by your mobile phone? Look no further than Finland – the home of the cell phone – where you can take part in the Mobile Phone Throwing World Championships.
There are two categories in Mobile Phone Throwing: traditional style and freestyle. The former is the typical ‘over the shoulder’ throw where distance is crucial, while the latter is based on aesthetics and choreography. And the prize for the winner? Why a brand new mobile phone of course.
The competition has been in existence since 2000 and to date a Mr Mikko Lampi from Finland holds the world record in the traditional category from 2005, with a throw of 94.97 metres. Anyone hoping to throw their own phone though, will be disappointed: competitors can only use mobile phones provided by the sponsor, Fennolingua.
Where: Savonlinna, Finland
What: Looking for love? Then make for the month long Matchmaking Festival in Lisdoonvarna, Ireland. Hormones run high every September as singletons converge on this sleepy, spa town in search of a soul mate.
The unattached of all ages can enjoy drinking, dancing, horse racing, a championship barbecue cook-off in addition to a myriad of other ‘meet and mingle’ events at what is, in effect, the biggest ‘singles’ event in Europe and one of the oldest festivals in Ireland. Professional matchmakers are on hand to help so essentially if you can’t find a mate during this month, we don’t rate your chances… On the final week-end, the frenzied festival culminates with the crowning of ‘Miss and Mr Lisdoonvarna’.
Where: Lisdoonvarna, Republic of Ireland.
French Turkey Festival
What: There’s no better time to talk Turkey than the Festive season which is why in the run up to Christmas, the French town of Licques (an area famed for its poultry) holds its annual Turkey Festival – or ‘Fete de la Dinde’ to give it its proper name.
The festival’s main draw is the Sunday morning parade which sees some 200 birds paraded through the streets before being slaughtered and stuffed come Christmas Day. Before the turkey procession takes place, visitors are invited to taste the local liquor, Licquoisse which complements the taste of turkey.
Where: Licques, France
What: Held annually on Australia Day at the Story Bridge Hotel in Brisbane, the sport – which began back in 1982 – has become a bit of a tradition. Modestly described by the organisers as “the greatest gathering of thoroughbred cockroaches in the known universe”, punters pay five bucks to get in and an additional five for your own cockroach, with all proceeds going to charity. You participate by placing your roach in the centre of a large ring and the first roach to cross the line wins. Like all races, there are rules; these include penalties for performance enhancing substances like coffee, sugar and red cordial, fines for pitch invaders while people disagreeing with any race rules or arrangements will be considered “wowsers” and “not very Australian at all”.
Where: Brisbane, Australia
San Francisco Zoo Valentine’s Tour
What: Don’t fancy dinner, dancing and sappy music this Valentine’s Day? Sign up for a sex tour at San Francisco Zoo instead. The adults’ only tour was conceived by penguin keeper Jane Tollini back in 1989 when she spotted her penguins getting a tad too affectionate. For fun, Tollini cut out some hearts, stuck on a CD and invited her friends and colleagues to see the show. The event proved so successful that she opened it to the public and expanded the event to include all ‘up for it’ animals, from giraffes to gibbons. Attendees receive an unabashed look into the mating habits of wild animals and a behind-the-scenes tour of some of the zoo’s typically off-limit areas as well as romantic refreshments like champagne and chocolates. Adults go ape for this racy event so next Valentine’s why not woo your partner at the zoo?
Where: San Francisco Zoo