Vlad Melnik wins hot pepper eating contest

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TINIAN — Vlad Melnik is this year’s male winner of the hot pepper eating contest, besting five other competitors, including last year’s champion, Kirk John.

John and Jose Javier were disqualified after they swallowed 100 pieces of donne sali or Tinian hot pepper. A contestant was supposed to bite one pepper at a time and spit it until all the 100 pieces of donne sali were consumed.

Rep. Luis John Castro, the master of ceremonies, apologized for not reminding the contestants about the rule.

Melnik went home with a $200 cash prize. Second prize went to Ahman Fadel who won $150 while third placer Marc Soliva received $100. The other contestant was Bolo Cabrera.

In the pika burger eating contest sponsored by JC Café, Thomas Erickson won the first prize of $100 cash; Vlad Melnik was second, $75; and David Butterfield was third, $50.

Erickson said he was excited to join the competition for the first time, saying that he had been in the states for the past five years.

The winners of the hot-pepper eating contest:  Vlad Melnik, third left, first place;  Ahman Fadel, second left, second place; and Marc Soliva, third right, third place hold their checks while posing for a photo with Marianas Visitors Authority Managing Director Priscilla Iakopo, left, MVA Tinian field operations supervisor Vida Borja, second right, and master of ceremonies, Rep. Luis John Castro, right.

“It’s nice to be back home, and I enjoyed the competition,” he said adding that the hardest part was when he had to consume the French fries with the two-layer hamburger.

The other participants in the contest were Greg Wolfe, Jay Wolfe, Madge, Anthony Reyes, Richard Lazaro, and Peter Ayuyu.

The eating competitions were among the highlights of the 16th Annual Tinian Hot Pepper Festival held on Feb. 15-16 at the Fiesta Grounds in San Jose.

In an interview, Marianas Visitors Authority Managing Director Priscilla Iakopo said she was happy with the good turnout.

“We have the support from the community not only from Tinian but from Saipan and Rota as well,” she said, adding that there were also tourists and military personnel who participated in the two-day festival.

“We didn’t hear any complaints but, but a lot of compliments,” she added.

Thomas Erickson, right, who has just returned to Tinian after five years in the states, is this year’s pika burger eating contest winner. With him in the photo are Marianas Visitors Authority Managing Director Priscilla Iakopo, second right, MVA Tinian field operations supervisor Vida Borja, second left, and master of ceremonies Rep. Luis John Castro, left.  Photos by Junhan B. Todiño

Gov. Ralph DLG Torres, for his part, commended the Tinian mayor’s office, MVA, and the sponsors for hosting a great event enjoyed by community members and tourists.

He said the festival showed once again that Tinian’s donne sali is the hottest pepper in the Marianas.

Tinian Mayor Edwin Aldan thanked community members and tourists for participating in the festival which, he added, “celebrates and showcases the unique attributes of what Tinian and its people have to offer.”

He added, “It is about sharing our talents and skills with others, and celebrating our way of life whether it be through food, drinks, arts and crafts, or entertainment.”

The festival also featured a bike race, a cha-cha dancing competition, a costume contest, an estofado cooking contest, a canoe race, an umang race, a sack race, and a tug of war.

Among the entertainers were The Originals, the Tunadas Singers, the Tao Tao Cultural Dancers, the Smarty Swag Dancers, Jonilla Manuel, Nikki Manglona, Letricia, the Fit Beat Dancers, the Tubera Siblings, Olei’s Band, the Aldan Sisters, Pacific Cool, Marvin & Jay, the Saipan Music and Dance Studio, the E&J Band, and Joe Sablan.

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