In the early 1980s, what may have precipitated the first tomato war was a comment made to Taylor Adams, owner of the Inn of the Black Wolf at Twin Lakes (the inn was so named because Ms. Adams raised wolves there).
A woman from Dallas surveyed the natural beauty of the area that is nestled below Mount Elbert, Colorado’s highest peak. She turned to Taylor and exclaimed, “It sure is pretty here. It’s a shame no one has done anything with it.” Taylor knew right then she needed to do something, not about developing the area, but about Texans.
Ever since Texans could drive, they have vacationed in Colorado, creating a love-hate relationship with Coloradans who like to take their money while begrudging their presence.
Apparently, other Coloradans felt the same way. As many as 500 participated in one “war” in Twin Lakes during the Tomato Wars’ 12-year run that began in 1982. The Colorado battle cry was “Keep Colorado Beautiful. Buy a Texan a bus ticket home.”
Some of the best strategies have included a Texan arriving by helicopter, a Coloradan arriving by parachute, and a peace march by a dissenting group. In 1984, inventive Texans moved into battle with a cardboard tank complete with a cannon that squirted tomato juice.
During past wars, the outnumbered Texans have employed elaborate strategies. They have built forts of straw bales and dubbed the forts “the Tomalamo.” The Tomalamo has typically been the scene of the most intense fighting.
In some years, protesters arrived in outrageous costumes carrying signs that read, “Hell no, we won’t throw!” and spouting slogans saying tomatoes should be used for Bloody Marys and barbeque sauce. Mock protesters shouted “Make paste, not waste!”
In 2020 the tomato war was revived by a 10-year participant at Twin Lakes. Larry Bunte, with the help of friends and fraternity brothers, organized a small event in Guffey and raised over $1,700 for Cystic Fibrosis.
This year, the Rotary Club of Buena Vista, with the help of Larry Bunte and friends, is organizing a larger event in Buena Vista on Sept. 18. All Coloradans and Texans are invited.
J. David Holt