Tomatoes go 'splat' for squash charity in Baltimore

Nearly one hundred people happily hurled soft, juicy tomatoes at one another on Sunday as La Cuchara restaurant hosted Baltimore’s version of the Spanish tradition of La Tomatina.

Heaping mounds of 2,500 red tomatoes stood on opposite ends of the parking lot outside the Basque restaurant in Woodberry as referee and co-owner Jake Lefenfeld stood between them to announce the rules and blow the whistle to start the fight.

“Not everyone can get to Spain for the Tomatina,” he said. “So we brought it here to Baltimore.”

The festival in the streets of Buñol, Spain, draws tens of thousands of people each August. So, by comparison, the two teams of about 50 people for the Baltimore Tomatina and Food Festival were small.

But their energy was no less fierce or festive as they fired the red fruit through an afternoon air filled with delighted screams and laughter. The tomatoes splattered and stained the hair, shirts and pants of everyone involved.

Rob York, 39, a beer salesman from Columbia, affixed a 360-degree camera to a GoPro on his hat. He signed his waiver, paid the $15 fee and threw himself happily into the mix.

“It just looked like fun,” he said.

Rebecca Caron, 35, of Greektown, wore an old white tank top, knowing just how soaked she might get.

“An organized food fight? Absolutely,” said Caron, picking chunks of tomato out of her French-braided hair.

“It was awesome,” agreed Rebecca Fajkowski, 26, who fought side-by-side with husband Ben, 28.

Ben and Amy Lefenfeld, also co-owners of the restaurant, said they were thrilled with the turnout.

The event included music by Tomas Pagan Motta and food and drinks from Blue Pit BBQ, the Charmery, Union Craft Brewing, Ekiben, the Local Oyster and others.

The $15 food fight fee and $5 ticket for the festival will benefit Baltimore SquashWise, an organization that supports Baltimore youth through academic tutoring and instruction in the sport of squash.

“You really had people from all walks of life out here,” said Ben Lefenfeld.

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