By JAYSON CAMACHO
The 10th edition of the popular Tinian Hot Pepper Festival this year drew hundreds of visitors and island residents to Kammer Beach, in celebration of the island’s donni sali, a small but potent hot pepper that is indigenous to the island.
The hot celebration carried on despite the heat of a blazing weekend on Feb. 15 to 16.
Tinian Mayor Ramon Dela Cruz led this year’s festivities that included many visitors from Saipan, Rota, and Guam. Tourists and athletes joined in for the enjoyment of local food, fun and games, eye-catching performances, and ceremonies.
Delegate Gregorio Kilili C. Sablan (Ind-MP) was among government officials that attended the event. He said he feels great that he was able attend the event this year. “It’s great and I’m happy to be here,” noting the number of new vendors and so many members of the community participating.
The festival featured performances by Tinian Jr./Sr. High School’s JROTC drill team, St. Joseph Catholic School dancers, singer Amanda Jumao-as, XOT Dance Group, Saipan Music & Dance Studio, a rap performance by Josh Castro, Taotao Taga Dance Academy, and many others.
The annual festival also featured 25 vendors that sold food and arts, benerages, clothing, and jewelry. Raffle tickets for given out for prizes.
Docomo Pacific had its own raffle drawing and the winners were Edwin Aldan and Panfilo Deleon, both winning a Blue Zoey with Moodz audio speaker. Deleon also got another courtesy prize—a case of Aloha drinks.
The Northern Marianas College and University of Guam Outreach joined other informational booths.
The highlights of the events were the Umang Race and the hot pepper eating contest for the men and women.
The Umang Race (Chamorro for hermit crab) was won by Brayden John Iglesias-Santos, whose crab walked off with the $20 first place prize. Kymani Nabors’ hermit crab came second, winning $15, while that of Kaydrent Borja got third place for $10.
In the female hot pepper eating contest, which involved eating as much donni sali within a short period of time, Lucia Ayuyu emerged as the champion, winning the $150 cash prize. She was quickly followed by Lamyuan Yenthaisona, who won $100, and Tina San Nicholas, who got $75.
Another festival highlight was the JC Café’s Pikalicious Burger Eating contest, which Corey San Nicholas won hands down, giving her the $50 prize. Napu Aldan took second place with $25 while Joshua Q. Castro placed third with $15.
Mayor Dela Cruz told Saipan Tribune said it was great to see so many people enjoying the festival and he was happy at the overall turn of events.
He was echoed by Antonio SN. Borja, chairman of the 14th Tinian Municipal Council, who said: “It’s beautiful and it’s a real honor to have the people celebrate here for the donni sali festival.”
The festival kicked off on Saturday with the 14th Annual Tinian Turquoise Blue Triathlon at 7:30am.