(MVA) —  An estimated  17,500 people turned out over three days  at  last  weekend's   22nd  Annual  Taste  of the  Marianas  International  Food Festival  & Beer Garden  at the Garapan  Fishing Base  on Saipan.   The annual signature  event of the Marianas  Visitors Authority  featured  20 food and drink  vendors  and live entertainment under Covid-19  safety protocols,  including mandatory temperature  checks and masks.

"This  year's  Taste of the  Marianas  was  incredible,"  said  MVA Managing  Priscilla  M. Iakopo.    "This  would  not  have  been  a huge  success  without  the  support  from  our  executive leaders,  public  health  officials,  government  agencies,  sponsors,  food  and  drink  vendors,  arts council,   entertainers,   and  most   especially   our   community-for   cooperating   with   the   safety measures.  Let us continue  to stay vigilant  in practicing  our three W s  and getting  vaccinated  so we can continue to get together."

Four contests were held at the event, beginning  with the Eskabeche  Cooking  Contest on Friday.   Natalie  Kaneshi  won  first place,  Samson Tan won second  place,  Smoked  Out won third place, and Andrew  Songsong won fourth place. 

 In the Kadun Pika Cooking Contest on Saturday,  Smoked Out took top honors, followed by Pika Me to Win,   Chef Tan,  and Yan's Team.

The Bunelos  Kamuti  Eating  Contest  on  Sunday  challenged  eight  contestants  to be  the first to finish four pounds of bunelos in 30 minutes.   Although none were able to finish their tray of bunelos,  an enthusiastic  George Cabrera finished over 2.1  lbs.  to take  first place,  followed by Ramon Rejano in second place, Regino Ben in third place, and Andrew Songsong in fourth place.

Cash prizes were awarded for the cooking contests and eating contest:  $500 for first place, $250 for second place, $150 for third place, and $100 for fourth place.

In the booth decorating competition,  first place and $400 went to Oh My Grill!,  second place and $300 to Island Grindz, third place and $200 to D'Elegance, and fourth place and $100 to Herman's Modem Bakery.

This  year's  festival  was  sponsored  by  Bank  of Guam,  IT&E,  Bridge  Capital,  AA Construction, and Dave's Electronics Center. 

At the opening ceremony, MVA Vice Chairwoman Gloria Cavanagh acknowledged partner agencies who helped make the festival possible, namely the Commonwealth  Healthcare  Corp.,  CNMI  Covid-19  Task Force,  the Bureau  of Environmental Health,  Alcoholic Beverage and Tobacco Control,  the Bureau of Environmental  & Coastal Quality, the Department of Public  Lands,  the Department of Lands  & Natural  Resources,  the Saipan Mayor's Office,  the Saipan Zoning Office, the Department of Public Safety,  the Rota Mayor's Office, the Commonwealth Utilities Corp., and the Department of Fire & Emergency Medical Services.

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