Tomato Battle Coming to Fairgrounds

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

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