La Truofeste ("The Throwfest") is an annual festival held every last Tuesday of August in the tomato-growing town of Corbi, Dennland, Brutland and Norden. More than 5,000 people come to the town of 500 to participate in the tomato fight, including the royal family. A royal who reaches the age of 24 usually participates in that year’s Truofeste.
The event traces its roots to several events during the Nordener Revolution. The town of Corbi and the surrounding countryside were ‘liberated’ by Revolutionary forces on July 10, 1726. The grants of Modica (where Corbi belongs) and Epiro were joined to form the Governorate of Casarsa Valley.
On November 1729, the Revolutionary government issued an edict banning religion, confiscating the Church’s property, and persecuting the clergy and religious people. This forced atheism angered the people of Corbi.
The Governor ordered churches throughout the region sacked and looted on the Feast of the Epiphany, January 6, 1730. Two days later, a group of soldiers were sent from the town of Tapognano to seize the church of Sant’Erico in Corbi. The villagers of Corbi were alerted by the inhabitants of the neighboring hamlet of Scaluzza, whose church has been destroyed.
Consequently, when the soldiers came marching to the main street of the town, townsfolk pelted the incoming soldiers with overripe tomatoes. The soldiers withdrew from the village.
By that time, a resistance/separatist movement was brewing in Dennland. The partisans occupied Modica from the west and were in control of most of the area, including Corbi. In September 1732, the Revolutionary government counterattacked and took most of the lower Casarsa Valley. After taking the grant capital of Modica, they advanced towards Corbi. On November 13, 1732, a group of about 400 soldiers were positioned outside the town of Scaluzza, the town before Corbi. In return for the help in 1730, the inhabitants of Corbi brought their scythes and farm implements to defend the town. When soldiers began fighting the people of Scaluzza, women and children from Corbi came in and began pelting the soldiers with tomatoes. The soldiers became disorganized and retreated. This became known as the Battle of Tomatoes (Battaglio di Tomatu).
The area was still prone to raids conducted by the Normarkers from the north. Three such raids were repelled: on January 14, 1734; on April 02, 1735; and on December 28, 1736. In all cases the menfolk faced the raiders with scythes and the townsfolk with their tomatoes.
These raids were conducted in daylight so they were easily repelled. But the raid on the night of August 26, 1737 was not. A group of seven Revolutionary soldiers sneaked into the town and entered the Church of Sant’Erico. They killed the church caretaker, his wife, and his three sons, but the caretaker’s daughter escaped and climbed the church’s belltower. She rang the church bell, and the entire town awakened. Realizing what was happening, the townsfolk rushed to the chapel and captured the seven, who had also just killed the parish priest and a nun. The next day, Tuesday, the seven were put on the pillories in the town square. Townspeople pelted them with tomatoes in anger. At noon on August 27, 1737, the townsfolk executed the seven using axes and scythes. The caretaker’s daughter was adopted by the town as the “Daughter of Corbi”.
Every year, the people of Corbi reenact the events of August 27, 1737. Eventually, it evolved into a food fight, but its symbolism remains.
The festival usually starts on the night of the last Monday of August. The townsfolk of Corbi attend a Mass in the Church of Sant’Erico. Then the church bells are rung for almost two hours; from 11:45 pm to 1:30 am as the inhabitants light candles.
On the morning, at 7:00 am, seven men are put onto the stocks on the town square. They are usually volunteers from the 12th Infantry Division of the Nord-Brutlandese Army stationed in the town of Modica. At 8:30 am, a 10 year old girl, the “Daughter of Corbi”, comes up to them, slaps them in the cheeks, and smashes a tomato in their faces. [Usually the “Daughter of Corbi” is named in a beauty pageant held during the first week of May.] After this was done, the banner of Corbi is raised, and this is the signal for the throwing of the tomatoes. Trucks bring in tons of tomatoes, and the food fight begins.
People throw tomatoes at each other until a gunshot is heard, usually by noon. The seven are then symbolically ‘executed’, usually by holding up their head by the hair. The festival is declared to be ended, then inhabitants of Corbi wash down the participants, or free showers are available at the town hall and the train station.
It has been said that at the festival, a person from Corbi would prefer to hit the seven men on the stocks; while outsiders usually would rather hit each other.
Usually the hardest hit of all are the seven men on the stocks, since they remain in the same position throughout the festival, without any chance to retaliate.
Corbi’s streets usually turn into rivers of red with the juice. The town would wash their streets with water, but it is said that the streets of Corbi would always smell of tomatoes.
The washings go to the Casarsa River, which turns red from the tomato juice. The Casarsa usually remains red until its junction with the Volpolupo River at Tapognano, 13 km downstream. Even then, the Casarsa is reported to be significantly pinkish when it meets the Dina River at the city of Modica, 81 kilometers downstream of Corbi.
The town of Corbi only has a small inn, and tourists usually book at Modica, 16 kms south of Corbi, or at Rivedighera, 28 kms to the east via the San Robledo Pass. A north-south train (D44 – Casarsa Branch Line) can take you from the City of Terrestriva to Corbi. The Western Dennland bus route passes though the neighboring town of Chiusavecchio, 12 km to the north.
International flights can land at the Suciana-Trefini International Airport in San Roche, 135 kms from Terrestriva.
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|Culture: Nord-Brutlandese • La Truofeste|
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