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Tinian Hot Pepper Festival a success

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(MVA) — The 16th Annual Tinian Hot Pepper Festival on Feb. 15-16, 2020 served up all the usual food, fun, and festivities, seasoned with the island’s trademark hospitality and warmth.

The diminutive but infamously fiery “Donne sali” hot pepper was the highlight of the 16tth Annual Tinian Hot Pepper Festival  on Feb. 15-16, 2020.
Matthew C. Masga of Tinian shares his spondylus jewelry with a visitor from Guam on Feb. 15, 2020, at the Tinian Hot Pepper Festival.
Island youth help at a vendor booth selling “donne sali” hot pepper and treats on Feb. 15, 2020.
Bob Ferrer, Mark Isip, and Joel Buco placed 1st to 3rd, respectively, in their division of the 65K Pika Bike Race on Feb. 15, 2020, at the Tinian Hot Pepper Festival. From left are House Tourism Committee Chairman Joseph Lee “Pan” Guerrero, Tinian Mayor Edwin Aldan, Isip, Ferrer, Buco, Marianas Visitors Authority Managing Director Priscilla M. Iakopo, and 2019 Miss NMI-Earth Fire Katherine Johnson.
The JC Café Pika Burger Eating Contest on Feb. 16, 2020 was topped by hometown contender David Evangelista.
Taotao Taga Cultural Dancers perform at the 16th Annual Tinian Hot Pepper Festival on Feb. 15, 2020.  MVA photos

Ferry rides from Saipan to Tinian were sold out weeks before the event, with bikers taking the first ride over on Feb. 14 for the 65K Pika Bike Race early Saturday morning. Father and daughter duo Bob (1:43:44) and JC Ferrero (1:55:20) both earned gold in the Open Category for Men and Women, respectively.

In her opening remarks on Saturday evening, Marianas Visitors Authority Managing Director Priscilla M. Iakopo noted the importance of the event for both visitors and residents, alike.

“It is homegrown events like Pika Fest that leave a lasting memory in the minds of visitors— the people, the culture, the beautiful scenery, the food!,” said Iakopo. “Here at the Tinian Hot Pepper Festival, visitors have the opportunity to experience some of the best the Marianas has to offer. Because here, we see the strength of a community that comes together, supports each other, and rises above every challenge. A big thank you to all our volunteers that have made the festival possible, and thank you, Tinian, for showing us that in every situation, there is room and there is time for good food, good friends, and good times.”

On Feb. 16 Saipan resident Vladisov Melnik repeated his 2019 winning performance to top the Male Hot Pepper Eating Contest. The JC Pikalicious Burger Eating Contest tested 10 competitors with giant, “donne sali”-laced patties. Thomas Erickson of Tinian devoured the competition to place 1st, followed by Melnik and David Butterfield of Saipan. David Evangelista of Tinian served up the tastiest dish in the Estafao Pika (spicy chicken stew) Cooking Contest.

The first-ever homemade boat race was also held with mixed success, featuring boats made on Tinian by local businesses, government offices, and families. The canoe of the Department of Lands and Natural Resources finished the quarter mile course in the turquoise lagoon the quickest in their vessel made of roofing tin and lumber. They were followed by the Division of Fish and Wildlife. Not so successful were three teams from the Tinian Mayor’s Office and MVA, which floundered due to high waves and had to be towed back to shore by the Department of Public Safety’s boating safety unit.

The “Umang” (hermit crab) Race for boys and girls was topped by Lance Aldan of Tinian, having the fastest slow crab. He was followed by John Del Almonte of Tinian in 2nd place and Marcial Patio of Tinian in 3rd. Team “Tasa” led by Gov. Ralph Torres collapsed their competition in the tug of war, beating Team “Haligi” led by Tinian Mayor Edwin Aldan.

Along with other performance over the weekend, local recording artist Marvin Deleon Guerrero helped wind up the weekend with a Cha Cha Dance Competition topped by Bernie Palacios and Leonora Aldan of Tinian. Tinian’s local band Pacific Cool closed the festival on Sunday night.

The Tinian Hot Pepper Festival was held at the Fiesta Grounds in San Jose village and is organized every Presidents’ Day weekend in February by MVA and Tinian Mayor’s Office.

This year’s major sponsor was IT&E, and additional sponsors were Saipan World Resort, Saipan Shipping Co., and JC Café. Airport shuttle was provided by MVA to and from the festival site and extra flights were operated between Saipan and Tinian by Star Marianas.

Accommodations were available at Tinian Ocean View, Lorilynn’s Hotel, Tinian Street Motel, Fleming Hotel, Green Lion House Hotel, and the Marpo Valley Inn. Free camping was available at Kammer Beach, Taga Beach (toilets, barbecue pits, and outdoor showers available) and at the adjacent Tachogna Beach (toilets, barbecue pits, and indoor showers available).

For more information on Tinian, visit www.mymarianas.com.

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