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    Tuesday, May 21, 2019-12:11:55A.M.

     

     

     

     

     

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Tinian shows recovery at hot pepper festival

(MVA) — The 15th Annual Tinian Hot Pepper Festival was held on Feb. 16-17, offering a “pika” or spicy weekend of food, fun, and festivities to visitors and residents.

Held in honor of the island’s small but famously potent “donni sali” or hot pepper, the festival was held at picture-perfect Kammer Beach and was a welcomed reboot for the island following Super Typhoon Yutu.

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The 15th Annual Tinian Hot Pepper Festival opening ceremony kicks off on Feb. 16, 2019. Natasha Tomokane, center, and Miss Marianas Celine Cabrera, left, and other judges sample entries in the Katdon Pika Cooking Contest.
“Pika” is introduced at the 15th Annual Tinian Hot Pepper Festival. “Donni sali” or hot pepper is the inspiration for the 15th Annual Tinian Hot Pepper Festival held every Presidents Day weekend in February.
The 15th Annual Tinian Hot Pepper Festival on Feb. 16, 2019 was held at Kammer Beach, suitable for sailing, swimming, snorkeling, beach vollyball, camping, and other activities. From left, 2nd place Tyce Mister of Saipan, 1st place Joel Buko, and 3rd place Mark Isip, all of Saipan, celebrate their winning finish in the 65K Pika Bike Race, held on Feb. 16, 2019, in conjunction with the 15th Annual Tinian Hot Pepper Festival.
A local family picks up lunch from S-Mart Barbeque at the 15th Annual Tinian Hot Pepper Festival. Didi San Nicolas of Tinian sells hot pepper paste, power, and other items at the 15th Annual Tinian Hot Pepper Festival.
From left, Tinian Municipal Councilman Patrick Manglona, emcee Rep. L.J. Castro, and Tinian Mayor Edwin Aldan toast with Pika Pale Ale at the 15th Annual Tinian Hot Pepper Festival. Tinian Jr./Sr. High JROTC cadets serve at the JC Café Pika Burger Eating Contest at the 15th Annual Tinian Hot Pepper Festival.
Competitors in the JC Café Pika Burger Eating Contest take their first bites at the 15th Annual Tinian Hot Pepper Festival. Taga Dance Academy Cultural Dancers perform at the 15th Annual Tinian Hot Pepper Festival.  MVA photos

“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. 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 also 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 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 or 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 wings — 30 — in 15 minutes to win the Pika Wing Eating Contest.

Exclusive sponsor IT&E provided Samsung J6 Pro phones and 3 months free service as prizes for several contests.

Matua Villagomez won the kids’ “umang” or hermit crab race with his fast-moving crab, and prizes were also awarded for a Chacha Dance Off.

Marking 15 years of the festival, MVA introduced the hot pepper “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.