Extra flights and ferry transportation between Saipan and Tinian, as well as a free shuttle between the airport, seaport, and festival grounds aim to make the 15th Tinian Hot Pepper Festival on Feb. 16-17 more easily accessible to visitors.
Star Marianas Air, in cooperation with the Marianas Visitors Authority and Tinian Mayor’s Office, will extend its normal hours of operation during the festival.
On Feb. 15-Feb. 17, scheduled flights will be extended by three hours, with the last flights leaving Tinian at 9:30pm. Flights will leave Saipan hourly at the top of the hour (starting at 7am) and Tinian hourly at the bottom of the hour (starting at 7:30am).
“We’d like to thank the MVA and Commonwealth Ports Authority for all their efforts to make this event happen and for re-opening the Tinian airport for night operations,” said Star Marianas president Shaun Christian. “We hope our neighbors [on] Saipan will take advantage of our extended hours of operation to come for the day and join the community in celebrating something unique to Tinian.”
Advanced bookings are accepted for Star Marianas, but travelers can also show up at the airport on Saipan or Tinian and expect to be transported in a timely fashion. To minimize airport waiting times, interested travelers are encouraged to contact Star Marianas Air’s reservations team at 433-9996/8 to find out if a particular time of the day is expected to be busier than others. For more information visit www.starmarianasair.com.
The full festival with live entertainment will be from 2pm to 9pm on Feb. 16 and from 10am to 9pm on Feb. 17. Food vendors only will also open at 10am on Feb. 16.
The MVA is also offering ferry service between Tinian and Saipan on Feb. 15-18. The ferry schedule is: Feb. 15, departing Saipan at 5pm and departing Tinian that evening; Feb. 16, departing Saipan at 9am and departing Tinian at 4pm; Feb. 17, departing Saipan at 9am and departing Tinian at 4pm; and Feb. 18, departing Saipan at 8am and departing Tinian at 12pm. The Super Emerald ferry will depart from the Commonwealth Ports Authority dock in Lower Base. Passengers and must check in one hour before departure.
“Although several Tinian hotels are still closed following Super Typhoon Yutu, we know there’s still a lot of excitement building for Tinian Hot Pepper Festival, whether it be for a day trip, staying at a hotel, staying with family or friends, camping at the festival site at Kammer Beach,” said MVA managing director Christopher A. Concepcion. “We sincerely thank our partners at Star Marianas for making it super convenient to attend the festival this year, and we’re looking forward to another awesome ‘Pika Fest’ [on] beautiful Tinian.”
Ferry roundtrip cost is $25 for ages 3-11, $35 for ages 12 and older, and free for children ages 0-2. For one way, the cost is $10 for ages 3-11, $18 for ages 12 and older, and 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 on Tinian or Saipan. Cash payments only will be accepted.
Individuals arriving via the ferry will be shuttled directly to the festival grounds, and those departing via the ferry can catch the shuttle leaving the festival beginning one and a half hour before ferry departure time. Individuals arriving or departing at Tinian International Airport can call for a shuttle at 433-3216 or visit the MVA information booth at the festival grounds for assistance.
Activities during the weekend will include live entertainment, a variety of local dishes for sale, indigenous craft sales, and a variety of contests.
On Feb. 16, chefs of all caliber are invited to showcase their skills in the Katdon Pika Cooking Contest at 3pm. Katdun pika is an indigenous Chamorro stew featuring chicken and hot pepper. Cash prizes are $150 for first place, $100 for second place, and $75 for third place.
The JC Café Pika Burger Eating Contest at 5pm will challenge competitors to see who can finish the most hot pepper-laced burgers in 30 minutes, with the winner walking away with $100 cash and a Samsung J6 Pro with three months free service from IT&E.
At 7pm, children ages 12 and under can join the umang (hermit crab) race, with the top three finishers receiving MVA giveaways. On the first day of the festival, judging will also take place at 1pm for the best-decorated booth at the festival site at Kammer Beach, with first place winning $300 cash, second place winning $200 cash, and third place winning $100 cash; the three winners will also get a free booth at the 2020 festival.
Contests will continue on Feb. 17 with the judging of the hot pepper mwar-making (flower head lei) taking place at 11am. The first place winner will receive the IT&E phone package.
The Hot Pepper Eating Contest at 1pm will challenge up to five contestants age 18 and older to six rounds of increasingly hot pepper varieties from around the world, including Tinian’s famous donni sali. If multiple contestants pass all six rounds, the contest resume with more rounds of peppers until only one man or woman is left standing. The winner will receive $500 cash and the IT&E phone package.
The Pika Wing Eating Contest at 3pm is also for contestants ages 18 and up and will challenge them to see who can eat the most number of wings in 15 minutes. First place wins $100 cash and the IT&E phone prize package, but anyone who can finish 30 wings in the allotted time will win an increased grand prize of $500 cash and the phone prize package. If more than one contestant finishes 30 wings in the allotted time, contestants will enter a “sudden death” round; the qualified contestants will each receive 15 minutes to see who can eat the most number of wings. Eventually, only one winner will earn the grand prize of $500 cash plus the phone prize package, or the $100 cash prize plus the phone prize package.
Single elimination tug-of-war will start at 5pm, with the winning team of 10 receiving MVA giveaways.
At 7pm, the top three couples in the Cha Cha Dance Off will also receive MVA giveaways.
Contestants can sign up for the contests by visiting the MVA offices on Saipan or Tinian or at the MVA booth at the festival grounds. Contestants will be selected on a first come, first serve basis, so early registration is encouraged.
The 65K Pika Bike Race will be held on Feb. 16 at 6am and will begin and end at the festival site at Kammer Beach. To register for the 65K Pika Bike Race and avail of free ferry on Feb. 15, bikers may contact Alex Gozon at email@example.com or 234-5416 or Dawn Sarmiento at firstname.lastname@example.org. Bikers from Saipan who register for the race will be able to travel on the Feb. 15 ferry to Tinian at 5pm.
The event is co-organized by the Tinian Mayor’s Office and Tinian Municipal Council and sponsored by Bicycling Association of Tinian and MVA members. Campgrounds are open to the public at Kammer Beach, which has restrooms, outdoor showers, and five pavilions with sinks and barbecue grills.
Available hotels on island are Tinian Ocean View and Lorilynn’s Hotel.
Air service from Saipan to Tinian is provided by Star Marianas. Airport shuttle will be offered by the MVA to and from the festival site, which will be in San Jose village.
For more information on the Tinian Hot Pepper Festival, visit The Marianas Calendar at www.mymarianas.com or the MVA Facebook page, call the MVA Tinian office at 1.670.433.9365, or email MVA Tinian field supervisor Vida Borja at email@example.com. (MVA)