Don’t judge a tomato before you throw it

During the last week of August, approximately 20,000 people gather in the town of Bunol, Spain and pelt one another with ripened tomatoes. It’s supposed to be a celebration and according to the event’s Web site, a war with no winner because everyone will be having too much fun.

The fruit is smashed up ahead of time so no one can be injured. Shirts with bullseyes are discouraged while goggles are encouraged. It’s a celebration of the peak of the tomato season. The fight lasts an hour and then clean up begins — and that, too, is a celebration.

Fortunately, you can throw a tomato or two this weekend without leaving Milwaukee. On Saturday, the East Side Business Improvement District will be holding its third annual “Tomato Romp!” on North Avenue between Oakland and Prospect Avenues. Events include a farmers’ market, Bloody Mary competition and neighborhood tomato fight.

The tomato fight capacity is limited to a humble 200. Participants need only sign a waiver and donate $2 to Second Harvest, a food bank, before they can cover North Avenue with salsa.

I’ve mentioned this event to a variety of people, in hopes they’d be by my side on Saturday, slinging tomatoes left and right. It’s garnered love/hate reactions. Some are really enthusiastic and down to get a little messy, while others cringe and end the conversation by asking, “Why would you want to do that?”

They either think it’s plain gross, even animalistic, or incorporate issues of social justice and argue that food shouldn’t be thrown at healthy human beings for mere entertainment.

And then I change the topic. Because that’s when I know I’m talking to a square that needs to loosen up – fast. Come on, don’t be a fun snob.

It’s one thing to dislike something, but another to act like you’re too good for it. Squares are people who don’t dress up for college theme parties, sit out the Chicken Dance at wedding receptions and fake a case of laryngitis when it comes to karaoke.

Don’t be like this. Milwaukee’s way too fun of a city to take yourself so seriously. We’re proud of our bronze statue of the Fonz and sausage races at baseball games, for crying out loud. There’s much to do here solely for the sake of fun, and a late summer tomato fight is only one example.

Second, for those whose minds can only rest assured knowing food won’t be wasted, the tomatoes being tossed on Saturday aren’t sellable, according to “Tomato Romp!” event producer Julia Evans. Using hard, ripe tomatoes would not only defeat the purpose of donating to charity, but would also be rather painful. The tomatoes used will be donated by produce distributor Maglio & Co.

Also, this will be the first time cash donations are required to participate in the toss. Last year, participants were required to supply a can donation. Event staff is hoping that monetary donations will increase contributions to Second Harvest.

So go wild, have some fun, and throw tomatoes at strangers. It may be the only time you’ll get away with it sans ticket, arrest or black eye.