The 15th Annual Tinian Hot Pepper Festival was held on Feb. 16-17, 2019, in the Marianas, offering a pika (spicy) weekend of food, fun, and festivities to visitors and residents.
Held in honor of the island’s small but famously potent donni sali (hot pepper), the festival was held at picture-perfect Kammer Beach and was a welcomed reboot for the island following Super Typhoon Yutu.
“It’s a wonderful feeling for all partners to have come together and make the Tinian Hot Pepper Festival another success this year, despite the unique challenges the island has faced since Super Typhoon Yutu five months ago,” said Marianas Visitors Authority managing director Christopher A. Concepcion. “The venue next to the historic House of Taga at beautiful Kammer Beach was perfect, food vendors provided a wide variety of delicious options, and sponsors were just as enthusiastic as ever. The MVA is pleased to have once again partnered with the Tinian Mayor’s Office, Tinian Municipal Council, and the Tinian community to put on this fantastic event for visitors.”
The festival included live entertainment, indigenous craft sales, and a variety of contests. Although some hotel rooms were damaged by Yutu, dozens of visitors took advantage of the opportunity to camp at the beach next to the crystal-clear sea.
In his welcoming remarks, Mayor Edwin Aldan noted the similarity between the regrowth of donni sali and the rebound of the community after the devastation of Yutu.
“Just like donni sali is resilient, the people of Tinian are resilient,” Aldan said.
Contest winners walked away with cash and other prizes over the weekend. The title of Hot Pepper Eating Contest champion went to Kirk Johns of the U.S., who successfully downed rounds of local pepper, Korean red pepper, Thai pepper, Habanero pepper, Jalapeno pepper, Serrano pepper, fresh donni sali, and ground donni sali before wiping out his competition in the final round. Retaining her tasty title from 2018, Mikicia of Tinian was judged the best in the Katdon Pika (spicy stew) Cooking Contest. JC Cafe Pika Burger Eating Contest awarded high school student Manual Quitugua for downing a double burger and fries laced with hot pepper. The “Mwar”-Making Contest awarded Arsene Borja for the best flower head lei. Vladivslav Melnik of Saipan downed the most number of wings 30—in 15 minutes to win the Pika Wing Eating Contest.
Exclusive sponsor IT&E provided Samsung J6 Pro phones and three months free service as prizes for several contests.
Matua Villagomez won the kids’ umang (hermit crab) race with his fast-moving crab, and prizes were also awarded for a Cha Cha Dance Off.
Marking 15 years of the festival, the MVA introduced “Pika” as the official mascot of the festival.
Winners of the 65K Pika Bike Race on Feb. 16 were also awarded at the festival. Participants were provided free transportation from Saipan aboard the ferry shuttle.
Two sailing canoes also travelled from Saipan to Tinian for the event.
The Tinian Hot Pepper Festival is held every Presidents Day weekend in February. (PR)