The good, the bad, and the red: Portland’s Tomato Battle

I step out into the fenced parking lot and survey the scene. They’re everywhere. Before I can look for a place to hide, I feel something hit my arm, then another, in the head. I’m hit. Something wet and sticky is dripping down my face. What have I got myself into? I’m hit again, and a faint aroma of marinara rises to my nose. Everything is red.

On an otherwise normal Saturday afternoon, something incredibly strange has happened. In this seemingly innocent town, friend is pitted against friend, father against son, it’s each man, woman, and child for his or herself. It’s the Tomato Battle.

For less than ten measly minutes, I suffer the pangs and drips and blinding gooey slipperiness of tomato after tomato hurled at my arms, legs, torso, and unfortunately a few to the back of the head. They don’t hurt, but the feeling of getting smacked upside the head by a drippy stinky piece of fruit is something that stirs a fire deep inside, an urge to scoop gobs and gobs of the red stuff and fling it in every direction. For a few more minutes I shovel tomatoes in every direction, laughing happily, then promptly snapping my mouth shut before any of the artillery can touch my lips.

After escaping I join the crowd of participants happily hosing the red pulpy battle from their bodies.

The Tomato Battle, modeled after Spain’s La Tomatina festival, is a grueling 30-minutes (or however long you last) of throwing, tossing, spinning, flipping, or otherwise launching ripe tomatoes at friends, family, and complete strangers. The event also consists of ridiculous costumes and prizes to boot, live bands, beer and food, and of course, plenty of good Portland people-watching.

After this year’s Battle, I plan to come back each July to MacTarnahan’s Brewery or wherever the festival finds its home, to sling red gobs of wet nasty food at the world. And next time, I will be ready to unleash some sticky red fury.

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