On Saturday, 25 tons of tomatoes will be dumped downtown onto City Plaza. In the end it will be pulp, juice and probably a lot of ruined clothes, but organizers hope lots of money will be raised for charity.
Reno’s first La Tomatina is a giant food fight that mimics the event that has gone on for decades in the small Spanish town of Bunol. There, about 110 tons of tomatoes are tossed off trucks for a fight that turns the streets into rivers of red.
In Reno, the daylong event culminates in the 6 p.m. tomato fight, in which each participant who wants to lob a juicy bomb can pay the $10 entry fee and unleash a fury, or simply slip around in what’s sure to be a sloppy mess. For a minimum $50 donation, Reno mayor Bob Cashell will face the firing squad, as will Sparks mayor Geno Martini. Proceeds will benefit the American Cancer Society.
Club Cal-Neva president Jeff Siri said that the City of Reno was looking to put the City Plaza, at First and Virginia streets, to more use. Brainstorming ensued and a tomato storm was agreed upon after being pitched by the Cal Neva’s events director Phil Kenny.
“When we started thinking about this, we decided it would be good to bring a charity on board,” Siri said.
He added that, during the debate on choosing a charity, nearly everyone in the room had been touched one way or another by cancer. Siri himself was one of them. In June, the 53-year-old was diagnosed with bladder cancer. He said successful surgeries removed the tumors and left him cancer free.
Reno’s La Tomatina started with a plan to use three tons of tomatoes, but when organizers looked at the size of the plaza, the order was super-sized. At about 5 p.m., trucks will dump the load of second-hand, food-rejected tomatoes onto the plaza. They’ll be nice and ripe, and are expected to splat on impact, Siri said.
Participants (16 and older only), will have to sign a release form, but there really are no rules.
“We ask people to be considerate of other people,” Siri said. “You don’t just sit there and wind up and whip it, you’ll be sloshing around. It’s going to be a big sloppy mess.”
But who’s going to clean it up?
Waste Management is providing the Dumpsters, and a clean-up crew will be on hand with squeegees and shovels. The Reno Fire Department will also arrive to give the plaza a washdown. Organizers are hoping 3,000 to 5,000 will participate.
If you’re not up for the food fight, the event runs all afternoon with live music, food, street vendors and a kids play area that includes mini tomato tossing starting at 1 p.m. on the block of Virginia Street between First and Second Streets. Entertainment includes Latin-funk band Drinking With Clowns, DJ Fierce, singer-songwriter Erica Sunshine Lee, Tree Woods, comedian Mike Martin and sax player Brian Kahler.