PIORNAL, Spain (AP) — Dozens of people ran through the streets of this tiny southwestern Spanish town Thursday trying to pelt a beast-like figure representing a farm thief with, appropriately, tons of turnips.
The so-called Jarramplas festival, celebrated every Feb. 19-20, centers around a town resident dressed up in a colorful costume and a horned helmet. The Jarramplas has to dance around the village facing a vicious onslaught of oversized turnips hurled at him by mobs of locals. Some 20 tons were to be used this year.
The origins of the festival are uncertain but there is general understanding that a thief was once hounded out of the village by a rain of vegetables.
Only residents from Piornal can be a Jarramplas and it is an honor to be chosen from the decade-long waiting list.
Mario Sanchez, who has a degree in business administration but is unemployed at the moment, speaks with passion and pride about being one of this year's Jarramplas.
"We have the sentiment of the festival inside us. We have lived it through our grandparents, parents," Sanchez told The Associated Press.
"It may appear a bit wild, perhaps people from outside won't understand it, but as you can see the people taking part enjoy themselves," he said. "There's no pain, no suffering. It is a beautiful festival."
The first day of the festival is seen as a training session for more turnip-pelting Friday.
Over the years the festival has seen some changes, and nowadays the chosen Jarramplas are well-protected by helmets, gloves and chest shields, which together with their outfits, weigh some 40 kilograms (88 pounds), meaning they can't run that fast. They also have to cart a drum during the four dashes about the town each day.
The Jarramplas are rarely injured but others often are. More than two dozen turnip-throwers and onlookers were treated for injuries Thursday, among them an AP photographer.