The 16th Annual Tinian Hot Pepper Festival on Feb. 15-16, 2020, in the Marianas served up all the usual food, fun, and festivities, seasoned with the island’s trademark hospitality and warmth.
Ferry rides from Saipan to Tinian were sold out weeks before the event, with bikers taking the first ride over on Feb. 14 for the 65K Pika Bike Race early Saturday morning. Father and daughter duo Bob (1:43:44) and J.C. Ferrer (1:55:20) both earned gold in the Open Category for Men and Women, respectively.
In her opening remarks on Saturday evening, Marianas Visitors Authority managing director Priscilla M. Iakopo noted the importance of the event for both visitors and residents, alike.
“It is homegrown events like Pika Fest that leave a lasting memory in the minds of visitors—the people, the culture, the beautiful scenery, the food!” said Iakopo. “Here at the Tinian Hot Pepper Festival, visitors have the opportunity to experience some of the best the Marianas has to offer. Because here, we see the strength of a community that comes together, supports each other, and rises above every challenge. A big thank you to all our volunteers that have made the festival possible, and thank you, Tinian, for showing us that in every situation, there is room and there is time for good food, good friends, and good times.”
On Feb. 16, Saipan resident Vladislav Melnik repeated his 2019 winning performance to top the Male Hot Pepper Eating Contest. The JC Pikalicious Burger Eating Contest tested 10 competitors with giant, “donne sali”-laced patties. Thomas Erickson of Tinian devoured the competition to place first, followed by Melnik and David Butterfield of Saipan. David Evangelista of Tinian served up the tastiest dish in the Estafao Pika (spicy chicken stew) Cooking Contest.
The first-ever homemade boat race was also held with mixed success, featuring boats made on Tinian by local businesses, government offices, and families. The canoe of the Department of Lands and Natural Resources finished the quarter mile course in the turquoise lagoon the quickest in their vessel made of roofing tin and lumber. They were followed by the Division of Fish and Wildlife. Not so successful were three teams from the Tinian Mayor’s Office and the MVA, which floundered due to high waves and had to be towed back to shore by the Department of Public Safety’s Boating Safety unit.
The “Umang” (hermit crab) Race for boys and girls was topped by Lance Aldan of Tinian, having the fastest slow crab. He was followed by John Del Almonte of Tinian in second place and Marcial Patio of Tinian in third. Team “Tasa” led by Gov. Ralph DLG Torres collapsed their competition in the tug of war, beating Team “Haligi” led by Tinian Mayor Edwin Aldan.
Along with other performance over the weekend, local recording artist Marvin Deleon Guerrero helped wind up the weekend with a Cha Cha Dance Competition topped by Bernie Palacios and Leonora Aldan of Tinian. Tinian’s local band Pacific Cool closed the festival on Sunday night.
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 by the MVA and Tinian Mayor’s Office. This year’s major sponsor was IT&E, and additional sponsors were Saipan World Resort, Saipan Shipping Co., and JC Café. Airport shuttle was provided by the MVA to and from the festival site and extra flights were operated between Saipan and Tinian by Star Marianas.
Accommodations are available on Tinian at Tinian Ocean View, Lorilynn’s Hotel, Tinian Street Motel, Fleming Hotel, Green Lion House Hotel, and the Marpo Valley Inn. Free camping was available at Kammer Beach, Taga Beach, and at the adjacent Tachogna Beach. (PR)