TINIAN (MVA) — The 17th Annual Tinian Hot Pepper Festival was held on Feb. 13-14, 2021, highlighting the success of the Northern Marianas in preventing the spread of the coronavirus through strong policies and community cooperation.

The annual signature event of the Marianas Visitors Authority, organized in cooperation with the Office of the Mayor of Tinian & Aguiguan, pushed through with a favorable turnout enjoying all the food, fun, and festivities associated with the festival within the parameters of enhancing public safety measures.

The CNMI has not had any community spread of the coronavirus in six months.  In her remarks at Saturday’s opening ceremony, MVA Managing Director Priscilla M. Iakopo also emphasized the importance of indigenous values in helping to flatten the coronavirus curve in the CNMI.

“Here in the Marianas, we have all pulled together to support our executive leadership and our health care leaders in doing what is necessary to keep our people safe, first with testing and quarantine for all arriving passengers into the Marianas, and second, by supporting the very practices we are all committing to this weekend: frequent handwashing, wearing our masks, and social distancing,” said Iakopo. 

“It’s about respect and care for others, and we can all take pride  that  this  important  virtue  in  our  Chamorro  and  Refaluwasch  cultures  has  helped  keep  our community safe and has helped make this weekend’s festival possible.”

The  50K  Pika  Bike  Race  early  Saturday  morning  attracted  48  bikers.    Joel  Buco (01:42:11)   and Kriz Gozon (02:17:43) earned 1st  place in the Open Category for Men and Women, respectively.

Later that evening Ricardo Carrazco of Nebraska chomped through 100 “donne sali” peppers first to top the Male Hot Pepper Eating Contest.  The following day Jessica Cabrera of Tinian took the Women’s title.  The JC Café Pikalicious Burger Eating Contest tested competitors with giant, “donne sali”-laced patties, with Thomas Erickson of Tinian defending his title and once again devoured the competition to placed first.

Bernard T. Lopez served up the tastiest dish in the Estufao Pika (spicy chicken stew) Cooking Contest.

The “Umang” (hermit crab) Race for boys and girls was topped by Joaquina Aldan and Hombre Hocog for having the fastest crab to exit the circle.  In the adult round of tug of war, two groups of friends faced off with a quick win going to the team informally named “Facial Hair,” while the Sack Race was won by the team of Stanley Jr. and Conan Briggeman Iakopo.

The two-person canoe race was held with mixed success, with only two of four teams finishing the timed course in the turquoise lagoon.  Finishing first were Adam Steves and Hannah Dodge.

Local musician Parker Yobei helped wind up the weekend with a Cha Cha Dance Competition topped by Carmen Dela Cruz and Melvin Cruz of Tinian.  First place in the Booth Decoration Contest went to Sweetie’s Corner.

Iakopo said MVA and the Office of the Mayor of Tinian & Aguiguan could not have made this year’s “Pika” festival — as it is affectionately known to locals —  possible without the event sponsors  and  donors,  including  the  CNMI  Office  of  the  Governor,  18th  the  Tinian  Municipal Council, the Commonwealth Healthcare Corp, the CNMI Covid-19 Task Force, the Tinian Fishermen’s Association, JC Café, Bikers Association of Tinian, the Department of Public Safety-Boating Safety, Department of Fire Emergency & Medical Services, KKMP, and Capt. Cecilio Raiukiulipiy.

The Tinian Hot Pepper Festival was held at the Fiesta Grounds in San Jose village and is  organized every President’s Day weekend in February. Ferry service and airport shuttle service were also provided during the festival.

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

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