MVA shows off with a costumed walk-a-thon

Posted on May 24 2021


From left, third place Sildrey Veloria, first place Laurie Boyer, and the third place trio of Akari Baidya, Yuichi Nonogaki, and Takashi Nazuka gather in their winning costumes while posing with Marianas Visitors Authority managing director Priscilla Iakopo during last Saturday’s Walk for Tourism at the Minatchom Atdao Pavilion. (Cody Race)

The Marianas Visitors Authority is enjoying CNMI Tourism Month this May and has been putting on a number of local events. This past weekend the MVA organized a Walk for Tourism, and were quite happy with turnout.

Over 200 people made their way up and down the Beach Road jogging path on a 5-kilometer route from the Minatchom Atdao pavilion to Quartermaster Road and back. It was a sunny morning with a nice ocean breeze and only interrupted by a short rain shower, which didn’t stop anyone from enjoying themselves. In fact, that rain shower might have been welcome to some, because not all participants came to the walk-a-thon dressed for jogging. Some came in costume.

The MVA took the classic 5K walk-a-thon formula in a new direction this year by introducing a costume contest. Everyone was invited to come dressed as tourists, with points given for the creativity, originality, effort, and theme of the costumes. As the sun rose over the trees, walkers trickled in after completing the route, dressed in inventive and colorful outfits. Participants wore a fantastic selection of clothes and accessories. There was a Pikachu onesied woman alongside a brightly dressed man in a full-face snorkel wielding a Nerf-gun. Some finished the walk toting selfie sticks and souvenir shopping bags, and others with full-sized luggage rolling at their sides. Quite a few had inflatable pool toys and sundresses and bright floral shirts were everywhere.

From left, Takashi Nazuka, Yuichi Nonogaki, and Akari Baidya finished the full 5-kilometer Walk for Tourism decked out in dive gear. (Cody Race)

The best costumes, and the cash prizes that went with them, were awarded at the end of the walk. In third place was Sildrey Veloria, whose victory was decided by a cheering vote of the gathered crowd. He wore an alligator pool floatie, Hawaiian shirt, and an “I Love Saipan” woven hat. Next up was a trio of SCUBA divers decked out in wetsuits and full SCUBA gear, complete with air tanks, and carrying fins and selfie sticks. The divers, Yuichi Nonogaki, Takashi Nazuka, and Akari Baidya, would have likely taken first place on effort alone, but they were just edged out by the creativity of Laurie Boyer. She had a good costume that might have competed for third place all on its own. She came in with the touristy sun hat, shades, sarong dress, and selfie stick, but what drove her into a firm first place was the pink convertible cardboard Mustang she wore over her shoulders. Her arts and crafts ingenuity made her whole ensemble shout “tourist” louder than anyone else, and the MVA sent Boyer home with a $100 first place prize.

Laurie Boyer “drives” through the finish line in her first place costume. (Cody Race)

This event was meant to keep the spirit of tourism alive, even as many businesses try to stay afloat during the pandemic. This is “in line with our efforts to jumpstart tourism,” said MVA Community Projects manager Martin Duenas. “We need local participation to make everything successful. It doesn’t work without a local flavor.”

One local group enthusiastic enough to join this weekend’s walk-a-thon was Skydive Saipan. More than a dozen members of the company and their families—the youngest of whom made the journey in a stroller—came down to show their support for the return of tourism to the CNMI.

With plans to re-start tourism flights this summer in motion, gathering enthusiastic local support for island events is more important than ever. MVA plans to have popular events like Taste of Marianas and the Saipan Marathon pushed back to later in the year, when tourism has hopefully picked up again. The Taste of Marianas is currently expected over the three-day weekend of Aug. 27, 28, and 29, according to MVA’s Ray Villagomez.

Costumed walkers including “Pikachu” finish the 5K Walk for Tourism. (Cody Race)

With Tourism Month close to wrapping up, the visitors authority also invites the public to join the Marpi cleanup this Saturday, May 29, in cooperation with the Japan-Saipan Travel Association. Though they are moving on, they won’t be forgetting this event anytime soon, since the costume contest was something that everyone who attended had a lot of fun with. This costumed walk for tourism was the first of its kind put on by the MVA, who clearly count it as a success. “Based on how it turned out, we’re seriously considering doing this again next year,” said Duenas.

Cody Race

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