(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.