(MVA) —  Star Marianas Air, in cooperation with the Marianas Visitors Authority and the Tinian Mayor’s Office, will extend its normal hours of operation during the 17th  Annual Tinian Hot Pepper Festival on Feb. 13-14, 2021.  In addition, limited ferry service will also be available.

Tinian pepper

The diminutive yet potent “donne sali” hot pepper. 

MVA photo

On Feb. 12-14, Star Marianas scheduled flights will be extended by four hours, with the last flights leaving Tinian at 9:30 p.m.  Flights will leave Saipan hourly at the top of the hour (starting at 8 a.m.) and leave Tinian at the bottom of the hour (starting at 8:30 a.m.).

The ferry is available on Feb. 13 and Feb. 14, departing Saipan at 10 a.m. and departing Tinian at 8 p.m. on both days. The Super Emerald ferry will depart from the Commonwealth Ports  Authority  dock  in  Lower  Base,  Saipan.    Passengers  must  check  in  one  hour  before departure.  Departure time is prompt but may change based on ocean conditions.

Ferry round trip cost is $40 for ages 3 and older.  For one way, the cost is $20 for ages 3 and older.  The ferry is free for children ages 0-2.  Advance ticket purchase is required and will be accommodated on a first come, first served basis.  Ticket purchases may be made at the MVA office in Saipan.  Cash payments only will be accepted.

Due  to  capacity  restrictions,  Pika  50K  Bike  Race  participants  only  with  proof  of registration will have a reserved ferry to Tinian on Feb. 12.

A series of health safety measures recommended by the Commonwealth Healthcare Corp. and Covid-19 Task Force will be implemented at the festival.    The Department of Public Safety will manage the entry of and take the temperature of all attendees at the festival site who will be issued a wristband once cleared each day   Handwashing stations will be installed around the event area, and attendees are required to wear face masks. Clear shields will be installed at all booths to prevent direct contact between vendors and customers.  Tent seating will be six feet apart by family or group.

The festival will be held from 4-11 p.m. on Feb. 13 and from 4-11 p.m. on Feb. 14.  The Pika 50K Bike Race at 6:30 a.m. on Feb. 13, funded by the Tinian Mayor’s Office, with cash prizes for 1st, 2nd, and 3rd  places in several categories.  Bikers may contact Dawn Sarmiento at dawnsarmiento@yahoo.com or 287-3667 to register.

“We’re pleased to announce the extension of festival hours up until 11 p.m. on both nights, and we thank both Star Marianas and the Commonwealth Ports Authority for making the extended flight hours possible,” said MVA Managing Director Priscilla M. Iakopo.  “We hope visitors to Tinian will choose to stay overnight and perhaps enjoy some camping while they’re there.”

The festival, affectionately knowns as “Pika Fest” among locals (“pika” means spicy), pays homage to Tinian’s small but famous “donne sali” hot pepper. Activities will include food sales,  live  entertainment,  competitions,  arts  and  crafts  sales,  and  more.    The  18th   Tinian Municipal Council will co-sponsor prizes for the male and female categories of the crowd- favorite hot pepper eating contest.  Other competitions will include “estafao pika” (spicy stew) cooking, cha-cha, tug-of-war, “umang” (hermit crab) race, sack race, and a home-made canoe race.

The Tinian Hot Pepper Festival will be held at the Fiesta Grounds in San Jose, Tinian, adjacent to Kammer Beach.  Limited hotel accommodations are available at Tinian Ocean View, Lorilynn’s Hotel, Tinian Street Motel, Fleming Hotel, Green Lion House Hotel, and the Marpo Valley Inn.  Free camping is 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,  contact  Tinian  field  operations  supervisor  Vida  Borja  at 433-9365 or e-mail  vborja@mymarianas.com or MVA community projects manager Martin Duenas at 664-3200 or email  mduenas@mymarianas.com

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