Residents and visitors turned out en masse on Saturday, Dec. 29, for the #MarianasSTRONG Year-end Celebration at Paseo de Marianas in Garapan, marking the resiliency and recovery of the Marianas following Super Typhoon Yutu in October 2018 and welcoming the New Year.
Long lines packed the pedestrian mall for free bouncy house turns for children, free Saipan- da backpacks and other giveaways, and free samples of mochi, the traditional Japanese New Year’s dish. Other patrons pounded glutinous rice to make mochi, played games, enjoyed street food and live entertainment, or donated to typhoon relief efforts.
The event kicked off at 5pm with 97 participants in the Yutu 5K Holiday Fun Run. Runners took off wearing holiday hats and earned a fun run T-shirt upon completion. For having the best holiday costumes, Jessa Lynn Lizama won $75 as a reindeer, Yui Ito won $50 as a Christmas tree, and Rom Manzon won $25 as Spiderman.
The event, organized by the Marianas Visitors Authority, PDM Promoters, Japanese Society of the Northern Mariana Islands, and Japan Northern Marianas Descent Association, continued until 10pm. The celebration was sponsored by IT&E, DFS Saipan, and Coca-Cola & Foremost/Quench.
“The #MarianasSTRONG Year-end Celebration was a huge success,” said MVA managing director Christopher A. Concepcion. “The crowd was larger than we expected. The vendors even ran out of food! We thank the community, our visitors, and our many sponsors and donors for saying loud and proud that we are #MarianasSTRONG and that we will continue to help all those families and individuals in still in recovery as we enter 2019.”
Over $1,000 cash was donated for typhoon relief efforts. Proceeds will be given to Karidat Social Services and other relief effort organizations.
Entertainment kicked off with a festively clad Marianas Ukelele, followed by a youthful Saipan Music & Dance Studio. Magician Neil Fama invited members of the audience to participate in his sleight of hand, Studio 29:11 delivered soulful modern dance, Alana’Ia shared colorful Polynesian dances, Man Antigu brought a taste of indigenous Chamorro culture to the event, and Su-san Band closed the evening with an ensemble of sax, trombone, tuba…and jingling bells.
Participating food vendors were Kinpachi Restaurant, Ina’s Kitchen, and Furusato Restaurant. (MVA)