Sometimes a little good, clean fun leaves you covered in smashed tomatoes. Come next month, the fruit will be flying in Pleasanton in the region's first Tomato Battle.
The brainchild of erstwhile financiers Clint Nelson and Max Kramer, Tomato Battle is a day of music, beer and the marinara-making fruits that organizers founded "to give people the best day of their lives," and the Bay Area's first organized tomato fight will debut at the Alameda County Fairgrounds on Oct. 1.
The event was born out of another projectile-hurling event the men hosted annually among friends. Spokeswoman Jules Jones said that Nelson, Kramer, and their swash-buckling friends would take boats out on a lake for their yearly "pirates versus vikings" water balloon fight.
"They just love big, fun fights," Jones said. "They wanted to think of something that was scalable with many, many more people. You can't take yourself too seriously when you're rolling around in a ton of ketchup with a bunch of other people."
So rather than try to fill thousands of water balloons, Nelson and Kramer found that produce destined for the compost heap or the landfill were ripe for the picking.
Sometimes the surplus comes from local farmers, sometimes from food banks that weren't able to make use of the produce before it became unfit for human consumption.
Whatever the case, Jones said that they expect about four semis full of the fruits to roll up to the Alameda County Fairgrounds come the first weekend in October in what will be the third event put on by the Seattle-based company.
The first sloppy showdown was staged in June at a ski resort in Copper Mountain, Colo., where 2,000 people and some 60,000 pounds of tomatoes clashed. The people won.
Jones said that since the Copper Mountain event, the response has been overwhelming. The number of Tomato Battle fans on Facebook was at 13,000 and counting, growing by about 1,000 people a week, she said.
Despite the demand, the events have been limited by supply. Organizers plan the events around harvest, with a Seattle event later this month, the Pleasanton pummeling and a SoCal event in October, and a battle in Texas in November.
"We would like for Tomato Battle to be an annual event in every location that we visit," Jones said, adding that an event for early 2012 in Arizona was in the works.
Organizers were also in discussion with venues in other cities, such as Las Vegas, for sometime next year.
"We'll go anywhere we can get tomatoes and find the right venue and the crowd of people that want to attend," she said.
Starting with the Seattle event, attendees have the option to participate or to just watch the tomatoes fly. Jones said that the Pleasanton battle is expected to draw some 5,000 people.
"We just want our events to be a positive experience for everyone," Jones said. "It sort of sells itself to the people who want to be involved."
Organizers encourage attendees not only to bring a change of clothes but also to show up dressed in costume.
Roman soldiers, men donning only Speedos and bow ties, and friends who created team T-shirts were among those Jones said participated in Copper Mountain's costume contest, which was won by a "bride" and her "bridesmaid" friends.
The Pleasanton Tomato Battle is open to attendees 14 years and older and is scheduled to begin at noon on Oct. 1. Ticket prices are $59.99 for attendees and $29.99 for spectators. More information is available at www.tomatobattle.com.
Bay City News