Midwest Tomato Fest: It was joyous, albeit stinky
|Photo by Taylor Paino|
|A sea of red at Tomato Fest|
Massive tomato fight invades downtown Minneapolis Saturday
The Midwest Tomato Fest [SLIDESHOW]
Last Saturday, thousands swarmed a parking lot on Portland Avenue in downtown Minneapolis with one mission: To throw tomatoes at each other at the second-annual Midwest Tomato Fest. Stinky, overripe, inedible tomatoes donated by farmers from Arkansas coated participants' bodies, and made their clothes reek of rotten food.
The fight, inspired by an event in Spain called La Tomatina, was founded by a few St. Thomas dudes. It began after an afternoon of booze-soaked dancing to Top 40 jams. Beloved local food trucks like World Street Kitchen served up eats that would prepare these scantily clad bodies for war.
I was there, among the Midwest Tomato Fest thousands. With the gonzo journalism of Hunter S. Thompson and David Foster Wallace in my heart, I launched myself into the saucy, chunky fray.
|Patrick Stephenson pre-battle|
I pedaled up to Tomato Fest at 5:30 p.m., as the rhymes of Kanye West and Jay-Z echoed off Mill City's condo canyons. Inebriated people in various states of undress gyrated to the music. With LMFAO's "Sexy and I Know It" blasting around me, I explored the crowd. Girls in bikinis dry-humped each other. Shirtless guys in sunglasses pumped their fists into the air. "Party With Sluts" read someone's T-shirt. "I should've taken a shot or three of whiskey before this," I tweeted. The scene was a tad too primal and frathouse for this introvert to handle sober and alone. Regardless, I shielded my eyes from the sun, and stood in their midst while, fenced off and guarded, a few billion tomatoes awaited nearby. An elephant in the room, summoning us to battle.
|Photo by Taylor Paino|
At 6 p.m., everyone turned from the Tomato Fest's rockin' stage. I joined the revelers as they pushed toward the tomatoes and laughed with them as hoses wet us before we even got dirty. Soon, having pushed farther, we realized we stood atop the tomatoes. I pulled my goggles down, ready for battle, and immediately got clocked. Fruit flew. Produce chunks began to amass on my tank top and shorts. Through my goggles, I saw tomatoes flying above us, the sky a beautiful Minnesota summer blue. Among a thousand pushing bodies, I reached toward the ground and picked up a tomato. I threw it into the crowd like the outfielder I'd been as a kid, aiming not for home base but someone's face. I laughed crazily. Throwing tomatoes felt just fine.
|Post battle carnage|
Eventually, I had enough. I got pushed face-first into someone's butt as I leaned down, and realized I'd tired of battle.
"It was awesome! A rush!" said tomato-stained participant Lynda Welp, whom I interviewed post-fight. She had stood near the front of the tomato crowd at the start, and aimed only for her friends during the fight. "I'll be honest," she said, "the first thing I did was push someone right into the tomatoes -- a big pile of tomatoes as high as your knees. "
Why do people love events like the Tomato Fest? Co-organizer Kevin Walker has a theory. "This is a bucket list event. It's not something you get to experience every day," he says. Situating the event in the heart of downtown Minneapolis puts it "right in our backyard." No longer must we travel to Spain to experience La Tomatina.
Now, we have our own celebration of the tomato.
"Who doesn't have a good friend they want to smash in the face with a tomato?" says Walker. "People want to escape reality after a full week of work, and this event says, 'Don't think about work. Bash random strangers with tomatoes instead.'"
Attendees were more than happy to comply. We smashed and bashed, with tomatoes as weaponry, and then escaped that faux battlefield for reality. It was joyous, albeit stinky.