“Pika” is the perfect word to describe the 11th Annual Tinian Hot Pepper Festival on Feb. 14-15, 2015, as “pika” is a Chamorro word that can mean both “spicy” or “spot-on.”
The annual President’s Day weekend celebration held in honor of donni sali, a small but potent hot pepper that is indigenous to the island, offered the perfect blend of island partying at the festival grounds and quiet escape at isolated beaches and back roads. Mayor JP San Nicholas welcomed visitors to the event during the opening ceremony, where Marianas Visitors Authority managing director Perry Tenorio and 15th Tinian Municipal Council chair Raynaldo Cing also spoke.
Twenty-five vendors joined the event, which also featured non-stop entertainment, including live performances by Kiilani Dance group, the Sunset Cruisers, and Danny Laniyo of Saipan. Other entertainment was provided by groups from Tinian, including Tinian Elementary Chamorro Bilingual Group, Tom Hoshi’s Dance Group, HD Crew Dance, Nikita & Anthony’s Band, Tao Tao Taga Cultural Dance Academy, and more.
“The island of Tinian has much to offer visitors throughout the year in terms of natural beauty and history,” said MVA Community Projects manager Martin Duenas. “But the Hot Pepper Festival puts Tinian’s island life and island hospitality in the spotlight, making it a great weekend for all.”
Tinian native Corey Jess San Nicolas again took bragging rights in the hot pepper eating competition men’s division. In the women’s set, Lucia Ayuyu walked away with the top honor. Both also earned $150, while second place winners earned $100, and third place winners garnered $75.
In the estafao pika (spicy beef stew) cooking competition, Jason Santos received the winning nod from judges for his flavorful blend incorporating the celebrated pepper.
In the popular umang (hermit crab) race, a number of youngsters pitted their shelled competitors against each other on a wooden track. First place went to Hailey Rae Santos’ entry in the girls division and Brayden Santos in the boys division.
In more vigorous efforts, the team of JC Café topped the dragon boat race, Team Umang hammered the beach volleyball win, and hot pepper champion San Nicholas also took first place in the tug of war.
Rounding out the weekend of fun and festivity, Nang’s Snack Mobile pocketed $200 for having the best-decorated booth at the venue.
The annual Tinian Hot Pepper Festival, held on Presidents Day weekend in February, is organized by the MVA and co-sponsored by the Tinian Mayor’s Office, Tinian Municipal Council, Tinian Dynasty Hotel & Casino, and MARPAC. (MVA)